But I have a Diagnosis!!!

But I have a Diagnosis!!!

“My child has been diagnosed, but the school said that doesn’t matter.” This statement is one of the most common frustrations I hear from parents.

The eligibility process for dyslexia or any reading/language disability is complicated. First, most schools won’t accept your independent evaluation at face value. They will want to do their own testing, and then most won’t diagnose dyslexia. Most will call it a “Specific Learning Disability.” As an advocate and IEP coach, I continue to use the term(s) dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia as they are more specific. However, in my opinion, it is not worth knit-picking in the paperwork.

Here is the kicker, just because your child is diagnosed (even from the school) with one or all of these things, it does not mean the school is required to provide your child with an IEP. And to make things even more complicated and confusing, there is no single method to be followed. However, although it can be confusing, understanding this (or hiring someone that does) works to your benefit. Most schools will stick to one method, but you can flex your muscles and try alternate paths if theirs does not work for you.

  • the discrepancy between ability and achievement (this is probably the most commonly used eligibility measure.)
  • A pattern of strengths and weaknesses (generally comparing cognitive and achievement scores)
  • failure to respond to instruction or intervention. (keep reading for details on this)

**Please note that each state and district will often implement these mandates differently, so check with your state for clarification.

The most common response I hear from schools when denying testing is that the child is receiving intervention; or that we need to wait to see if a response to intervention will work. (This is a tiered program.)

As a teacher, I BELIEVE in tiered intervention for kids, and I have seen a lot of progress with tiered support. However, we should NOT withhold special education testing/services because we are waiting to see if tiered support will help your child. The school can AND SHOULD be offering tiered support AND testing your child if there is reason to do so. A letter from the US Department of Education dated January 21, 2011, states,

“The regulations at 34 CFR §300.301(b) allow a parent to request an initial evaluation at any time to determine if a child is a child with a disability. The use of RTI strategies cannot be used to delay or deny the provision of a full and individual evaluation, pursuant to 34 CFR §§300.304-300.311, to a child suspected of having a disability under 34 CFR §300.8. If the LEA agrees with a parent who refers their child for evaluation that the child may be a child who is eligible for special education and related services, the LEA must evaluate the child.”

To sum it up, if the school says, “We are waiting to see if your child will respond to RTI.” or “We don’t know, let’s offer intervention first and see if that helps.” Your response should be, “Wow, thank you, YES! We should definitely offer more intensive intervention WHILE going through the testing to determine if my child has a reading disability. However, implementing RTI strategies is not a good reason to delay evaluation; and as a team, we should push forward to ensure she does not have a learning disability interfering with her ability to access the curriculum.”

There are many reasons why we should be testing early instead of waiting to see if the intervention will work.

  1. We only teach HOW TO READ until 3rd grade. It is much harder to close that gap if we miss that window.
  2. Dyslexia requires specialized instruction, but not every dyslexic benefits from the same instruction. (Multi-sensory instruction is a universal tool, but deficits are unique to each kid.) Some cognitive deficits are:
  • Phonological Awareness
  • Phonological Memory
  • Orthographic Awareness
  • Rapid Naming
  • Processing

I often tell parents you will find dyslexia in the sub-tests of testing. So, reference my blog on understanding test scores to ensure you are putting the entire puzzle together.

Lastly, dyslexia, ADHD, and autism have an alarming number of students considered twice exceptional. And although it is a beautiful thing to have a gifted child, it can also get in the way of determining eligibility. Sadly, suppose a student is scraping by because their gifted ability has allowed them to find a workaround to reading, decoding, or writing. In that case, they can often be overlooked. Endrew F. vs. Douglas County School District determined that a child’s educational services should “meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP [individualized education program] that is reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” The Court additionally emphasized the requirement that “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.” [IDEA DoE website].

To summarize, the school district must do more than just meet the bare minimum; they must provide services, so a child has the opportunity to meet their potential.

I know this is a lot of information and can be overhwelming. If you need help navigating the waters of eligibility for dyslexia, ADHD, or autism, please click here to make an appointment for a low cost 20-minute consultation or email me at lisa@advocating4faireducation.com or hit the contact tab at the top of the page.