Dear Nancy & Kim,
In reviewing the GA DOE DL Updates for October 2008 regarding Dyslexia, which I included below, I believe there is some very important misinformation reported in this document to GA State's Special Education Directors, which needs to be corrected and clarified immediately so there are no further misunderstandings regarding eligibility requirements.
As you know, I am not an attorney, however in reviewing this information, it is reported in two places (paragraph #2 & #6) that IDEA Eligibility requires a "substantial" impact on a child's education and they must have a "significant" learning difficulty. It is my understanding through my training from the GA Advocacy Office (GAO), Council of Parent & Advocates and Attorneys (COPAA), and Wrightslaw that for IDEA Eligibility under any category of IDEA, including specific learning disability, which the complications of Dyslexia would fall, in fact does not require either significant or substantial impact. Eligibility for IDEA in all eligibility categories, including specific learning disability ONLY requires an "ADVERSE" educational impact. In my opinion, there is both a substantial and significant difference between the use of these two terms, and the actual required term use of ADVERSE impact. The State's eligibility form even lists ADVERSE, and certainly not substantial or significant. The State and school districts simply can not use these terms interchangeably as they certainly do not mean the same thing.
Additionally, the child does not have to be failing to qualify for IDEA. As you both well know, they can have passing grades, yet still have an ADVERSE educational impact. For any child who has Dyslexia that it takes them twice as long to read, sound out words, process phonological sounds and comprehend a reading passage, this IS adverse educational impact. Just because they can have extended time for reading assignments, or spend two to three hours doing homework instead of one hour, does NOT mitigate the adverse educational impact on the child.
This is a very important issue that the GA DOE needs to specifically clarify now, since I believe this misinformation has been distributed to the Spec. Ed. Directors and they will use it to continue to deny eligibility to Dyslexic students who need remediation. The use of those two terms certainly and dangerously disqualifies many children seeking eligibility to IDEA, who are subsequently deemed ineligible and denied very important special education services and supports, including necessary and appropriate scientifically based reading instruction to specifically address the severe deficits of Dyslexia on reading AND writing, and even social interpersonal skills and language.
I have already been in recent IEP meetings in Cherokee, Cobb and Fulton, where when it came time to determine eligibility, the school psychologist looked at the school staff and asked if they felt there was a "significant" or "substantial" educational impact. I have to stop ALL these meetings, and clarify these terms are not required and it is stated clearly on the eligibility form that it only requires an ADVERSE educational impact. The misuse of these two terms confuses the school staff participating in these meetings and making these eligibility decisions, who do not know better. The use of these two terms, significant and substantial are always unnecessarily misleading school staff making these important decisions, even the Administrators are confused. I'm often thanked after these meetings by school staff who appreciate the attempted clarification.
Nancy/Kim, if I am wrong, please show me in writing where IDEA or the State's Special Education Rules and Regulations states that substantial or significant educational impact is required.
**On another related note, the DL updates need to include a section on Eligibility addressing "adverse" impact on education, and also explain what the term "educational" impact consists of. School districts consistently are viewing educational impact as academic and grade impact only, and NOT considering behavioral, emotional, social, and cognitive impact as well. This is all interrelated to the problem address above as well. They are increasingly taking the view if the child has passing grades, they do not qualify for IDEA (special education) services.
I do appreciate that in this update it does clarify that school districts are suppose to recognize, identify and qualify children with Dyslexia. Every client I have with Dyslexia was initially mistakenly told by their school district that they do not recognize the term Dyslexia....................... So thank you for clearing up that aspect.
"There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people." ---- Thomas Jefferson
CONFIDENTIAL AND PRIVILEGED
Information contained in this communication is confidential and privileged. It is not meant to represent legal or medical advice, but rather advice given based on my knowledge as a trained Parent Advocate by the GA Advocacy Office, Council of Parent Advocates & Attorneys, CHADD, LDA, the GA DOE Parent Mentor program as an invited guest and the special education attorneys that I often work with on educational matters. Please do not forward without my permission.
Georgia Department of Education
DIVISIONS FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES and SUPPORTS
OCTOBER 2008 DL UPDATE
Dyslexia: Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the official definition of dyslexia? "Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge." [International Dyslexia Association (IDA).]
2. Can a child with a diagnosis of dyslexia be determined eligible to receive special education? Yes, the term "dyslexia" is included in the definition of a specific learning disability [34 CFR 300.8.(c)(10).] However, the eligibility team must determine that the dyslexia substantially limits the student's learning and requires specialized instruction that cannot be received in the general education program to determine that the child is a child with a specific learning disability.
3. Is it appropriate for the school system to provide interventions for a child with a diagnosis of dyslexia before making an eligibility determination? Yes, the school system should provide appropriate reading interventions and document the student's response to determine if adequate progress can be made without the provision of specialized instruction.
4. How should the school system respond when a parent provides documentation from a private evaluation that gives a diagnosis of "dyslexia"? The school system should review the documentation, meet and conference with the parent(s) to discuss the student's reading progress, and to determine if there is an educational impact.
5. How should the school system address the determination of educational impact for a child with a diagnosis of dyslexia? The system must document inadequate response to core instruction and subsequent supplemental interventions. An "inadequate response" denotes that the student does not appropriately progress towards benchmarks in order to perform comparable to peers. Please note that this documentation is one part of a comprehensive evaluation.
6. How should I help parents and educators to understand dyslexia? Remember, we recognize basic reading, reading comprehension, and reading fluency under the specific learning disability category. A student diagnosed with dyslexia exhibits difficulty in reading, however, the district must determine if there is a significant learning difficulty that impacts the ability to progress through the curriculum.