Not eligible for special education

Many children with dyslexia will not be eligible for special education services – not even if a parent brings in a diagnostic report.

In that case, fight hard for classroom accommodations – and get the right type of help after school.

This parent did not do that – and regrets it.

Dyslexia runs in my family tree. My father, who is 60, can still remember being in second grade and having the teacher call him up to the front of the class to read out loud. The teacher would force him to stand there and “do it until you get it right” – despite him crying in front of the entire class.

I have a degree in Elementary Education, but we never had a single solitary course – not even a single lecture – on dyslexia.

Yet when my daughter struggled in kindergarten, her teacher suggested the possibility of dyslexia because:

  • On DIBELS, she was not meeting benchmarks in nonsense word reading
  • She had terrible spelling and could not retain her spelling words — not even the high frequency words like “some”
  • She already had 2 years of speech therapy for R’s and L’s, but was not improving
  • She constantly confused left and right
  • And she still could not tie her shoes

What now-

At end of first grade, I asked the school to test her for a possible learning disability. The school said they wouldn’t test her until at least 3rd grade.

So during second grade, when she was not making progress in Tier 2 of RTI, I hired a highly qualified private professional to test her. She was diagnosed with moderate-to-severe dyslexia.

But when I shared that report with the school psychologist, he stated that dyslexia does not exist, that Susan Barton’s website was not a valid resource, and we could not even get a 504 Plan because he felt our daughter did not need it. He claimed she displayed no difficulties and would prove to be a good student.

Her teachers and even the principal were at that meeting, and they went along with the psychologist’s assessment – leaving us to wonder if we really knew what we were talking about.

We were so confused that we decided to follow the school’s advice — and regret it.

Our daughter is now at the end of third grade. Despite another year of phonics instruction and more RTI, she still struggles with spelling, sounding out longer words, and cannot comprehend her science textbook when she reads it herself. (But she has no trouble comprehending it when I read it TO her.)

The school did eventually test her, but her scores were not low enough to qualify for Special Ed services. And her report card grades are not too bad. She gets low B’s or C’s.

We have shown our daughter’s diagnostic report to other dyslexia professionals and organizations, and they have all agreed that she definitely does have dyslexia.

So what do I do now?

8 responses

  1. I really feel for this family, and I think this plays out way too commonly. As an educational therapist, my first suggestion would be to seek out the services of an Advocate. An advocate can provide information about other routes to qualifying for special education services (other than having a severe discrepancy). I recommend families in the San Francisco Bay Area check out CASE which provides free consultations.

  2. I am in the same exact situation and feel the same way. My daughter was diagnosed with Dyslexia and ADHA and the school refused an IEP or 504. I had an advocate at our ARC meeting

    1. Dyslexia is usually grouped with Specific Learning Disability in Reading. For your child, depending on the school, she could receive Special Education services under Other Health Impairment (OHI). That is, your child must be medically diagnosed with ADHD and within the last year. Additionally, your child must also demonstrate a need for these services. She can demonstrate a need by not meeting state grade level standard tests or low grades (Ds and Fs). Though, if the school has a large Special Education population, the school can refuse Special Education services for ADHD students or can choose to put the child on a 504. If your daughter is placed on a 504, you will need to advocate for your child by thinking about how teachers could accommodate your child and by making sure that the accommodations are in place in each classroom. Either way, you have the right to ask the school for the assessment. As usual with many systems, there are many entities at work; thus, staying vigilant and persistent will be important. Good luck!

  3. This is part of the reason why I chose to homeschool my 9-year dyslexic son. He was not failing so the school wouldn’t acknowledge the testing results from the certified academic language therapist I hired to screen him. I started tutoring him with the Barton system so moving to homeschooling wasn’t too big of a leap.

  4. I have been a special education teacher in both public schools for 35 years. Never in all those years have I sat at a Planning and Placement Team meeting which allowed one person (school psychologist) to call the shots when determining if a child is eligible to receive specialized instruction and/or accommodations/modifications through an IEP or 504 plan. In Connecticut we have a checklist that the Team (which includes parents) must go through to determine eligibility and it is not heavily based on standardized test scores any longer. We use curriculum based assessments, classroom observations, RTI tier 2 progress monitoring data, grade level performance tasks, etc. This situation would NEVER be allowed to happen in my school district! It angers me that your child is being denied equal access to a quality education.

  5. As with any large entity, there are processes to complete and hoops to jump over. In regards to your daughter, it appears that she is performing within the range of her intellectual ability; thus, there is not a severe discrepancy between her cognitive and academic functioning to consider it a Learning Disability. What I would do is to go over your state’s Special Education eligibility criteria and determine why your daughter did not qualify for Special Education. If there is an error in the scores, I would bring that up. The evaluation will also provide important information on your student’s strengths and weaknesses (some things to think about: what is the best way she learns information? how does she process the information? what are her present levels academically? what specific skills is she lacking in?). If the evaluation is sound, I would work with the school in establishing classroom accommodations that could be done for her. Also, I would look for ways to help strengthen her weaknesses — by tutoring or programs that the school offers.

  6. My daughter was diagnosed in third grade of an auditory problem…if she read out loud she got it. They would sit her in hallway to read out loud and what do you know..she comprehended everything g. She learned to read silently and graduated with honors. Now 35 and office manager in doctor office. How about auditory since she got it when you read to her.

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