Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Dec 11
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by Jess

A recent IEP meeting began the same way they always do, “Jake is a great kid. He has a lot of friends and he tries really hard. We really like him and enjoy having him on campus.” Much to my surprise and my utter joy, Jake’s dad took off his glasses, leaned forward and said, “I know my kid is great. I know he has a lot of friends. But that is not why we are here. My kid can’t read, so let’s talk about that.” I beamed with pride and wished this could be said at every IEP/school meeting. Guess what? It can – just do it.

The niceties are over. The pleasantries are done. Dyslexia affects up to one in five children in this country, and it is still laughed off, brushed off, ignored and scoffed at in almost every IEP/SST meeting I attend. The word is not getting to the frontline staff and administrators, and I think it is because we are whispering. Well, now it is time to roar. I usually advocate for a win-win relationship and a healthy relationship between the school and the parents, but my tune is beginning to change. Niceties and pleasantries are not working, so the gloves are off, and we are asking schools the tough, relevant questions. It’s time for the dyslexia community to take control of the situation and ask the questions that require the districts to justify their responses and create some positive, meaningful change.

So, what questions should you ask in any school meeting (while the recorder is rolling of course)?

Question #1: How do/did you determine if the student has a Specific Learning Disability (SLD), such as dyslexia? (If they scoff at dyslexia, quietly hand them a copy of the definition of SLD with the word dyslexia highlighted). Let them know you understand they cannot diagnose but only determine eligibility. Again, how do you determine that?

Common Answer:

  • We look for a discrepancy between cognitive achievement and academic skills.

Your Follow-up Question to #1: If you do not find a discrepancy, do you use any other information, such as private testing, parent interview, classroom samples, teacher interviews, or state testing to determine eligibility?

Common Answer:

  • We only determine eligibility based on a discrepancy.

Your response: The reauthorization of IDEA in 2004 states that you do not have to use the discrepancy model to determine eligibility.

Question #2: What reading programs will you be using with my child?

Common Answer #2:

  • We use a variety of programs that have been adopted by the district. They work for the other students we have in Special Education.
  • We do not name any specific programs. We use the same program for everyone.

Your response to #2: Well, since the IEP is supposed to be individualized, can we discuss which programs are most appropriate for my child, based on the data, to receive meaningful educational benefit? What programs do you have that were developed for children with dyslexia? Also, please remember that since Rowley there have been several cases where the hearing officer stated the child should be able to achieve to their potential, not just some benefit.

Question #3: What training does the teacher have and will my student be meeting with a credentialed teacher or an instructional aid? If he is meeting with aid, what are his/her credentials? Are they trained by the publishers of the program or just by another teacher?

Common Answer #3:

  • The special education teacher has a mild/moderate credential.
  • The instructional assistant is trained by the teacher and supervised by the teacher.

Follow-up to Question #3: Did the special education teacher receive training in teaching reading in his/her credential program? Why is my child meeting with the assistant and not the teacher?

Question #4: What is your understanding of dyslexia, and how did you come to that understanding?

Common Answer #4:

  • Dyslexia is an umbrella term that encompasses many different reading problems.
  • Dyslexia is caused by inattention and lack of motivation.
  • It doesn’t matter; we don’t work with dyslexia here.
  • Dyslexia does not exist.

Response #4:  I would like to invite you to read the materials I have brought to this meeting for you.  In this packet you will find articles published by respected journals, book suggestions, websites and various other resources about dyslexia. I would also like to remind you that dyslexia is included in IDEA, and it therefore is real, and it is recognized by your district.

Unwavering Request and Your Chance to Roar (In a polite way): I would like my child to be taught using a research-based program that is directly responsive to his/her individual needs. Under IDEA and NCLB he/she should be taught by a highly-qualified teacher. I would like the curriculum you are using to be noted in the Notes section of the IEP, and I would like to see the research that indicates that this is curriculum will be effective for my student. Furthermore, I would like evidence that the teacher has received training in teaching reading to students with dyslexia. I would like progress reports every month, and I will be sending someone to observe my student during specialized academic instruction.

This is just a short script of the hard questions to ask at any and all school meetings, and these are not unreasonable questions. They are well within the law to ask. It is important to gather this information for many reasons: 1) to let the school know that you know your rights and you will not accept anything subpar because they lack the knowledge to provide FAPE for students with dyslexia, 2) you are there to educate them about dyslexia and you are not going away, 3) they need to begin to understand dyslexia because parents/caregivers of students with dyslexia across this nation are arming themselves with information that has been elusive until now. You can do it. All it takes it is a little organization, research, preparation and whole lot of heart.

Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley is the co-founder of the Dyslexia Training Institute (www.dyslexiatraininginstitute.org and www.dyslexiadr.com.) She is currently writing, Putting the D in to the IEP, and you can read excerpts at www.dyslexiadr.blogspot.com. She received her doctorate in Literacy with a specialization in reading and dyslexia from San Diego State University and the University of San Diego. Dr. Sandman-Hurley a Certified Special Education Advocate assisting parents and children through the Individualized Education Program (IEP) and 504 Plan process. She is an adjunct professor of reading, literacy coordinator and a tutor trainer. Kelli is trained by a fellow of the Orton-Gillingham Academy and in the Lindamood-Bell, RAVE-O and Wilson Reading Programs. Kelli is the Past-President of the San Diego Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. She has presented at numerous conferences as well as provided professional development for k-12 teachers. Join the Dyslexia Training Institute at www.facebook.com/dyslexiatraining

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24 Responses to “Dyslexia: Hear Us Roar”

  1. This is why sped teachers should use universal word, explicit teaching, concrete, multi-sensory, applied phonics reading/language arts/spelling intervention. Provide access to Least Restrictive Environment–inside and outside the classroom.

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  2. Kelli,

    You make some excellent points in your article and give parents and advocates good questions to ask. Thanks for writing this on linked-in. It will be a great day when schools have the man power and the ability to actually meet the needs of all students and not just hope that all respond and “benefit” from their instruction. Dyslexia is real as are other learning challenges and the more we education others and ourselves, the higher the chance that we will actually equip our young students to be successful academically!

    Thanks Kelli!

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  3. I loved this article. Does anyone know if Kansas will give an IEP for dyslexia. I am being told no.

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    • Yes, dyslexia is listed as an eligible condition under SLD, so they cannot deny an IEP because it’s dyslexia. Take it to the next step or get an advocate.

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  4. Dr Keli, Google– Learning Ally. My grandchildren now enjoy reading

    The 10 year old now takes a book to bed to read.

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  5. Great article on how to advocate for your child! Does anyone know if private schools in GA have to follow IDEA? Thanks

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    • Regardless of whether your child is in public or private school, your school district (the one you pay taxes for) is responsible for evaluating your child. You would need to make your evaluation request in writing. If your child qualifies for services, the district will help you draft an IEP, which your private school should turn into a service plan.

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  6. In 2010 NM passed a law recognizing dyslexia. Prior to 2010 all my son’s teachers told me kindergarten (2 yrs–they convinced my husband that son was immature) and first grade that one couldnt test for dyslexia until 3rd grade. His first grade teacher was so frustrated with my son’s lack of progress that she told me to put him onADHD meds! Beginning 2nd grade yr I was still hitting that wall of inaction teachers poo-pooing me that it was too early to test. I became so angry I reached over the heads of the entire school and went directly to the school district, demanding testing for dyslexia. Within 2 weeks the test was done and my boy was officially diagnosed and put on beWilson program. Recognizing the signs from my kid brother and cousin, I knew my son more than likely is dyslexic. Sometimes you have to reach over the teacher’s and principle’s head to get results. In NM the law is written such that the parent can request testing Without educators recommendation. Hope other States have that same clause.

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  7. Great article, I have been saying to parents of dyslexic students basically the same thing. You have to fight for your own kids and do it armed with such information as you suggest. I moved from CA to TN and it is even more needed in TN. I work as a private reading specialist and have had training and used Wilson and Lindamood Bell programs successfully with dyslexic students. One more item to mention is that it is very important to support a dyslexic student emotionally and give him/her as much self-esteem building as possible, because like their parents, the students need to fight for themselves as well when it comes to the public school system.

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  8. Kelli,
    I never knew how hard it would be to get people to care or believe in dyslexia. I am a classroom teacher with a sped degree. For the past two years I have been learning more and more about dyslexia, but the people around me that I try to explain it to just don’t get it. It amazes me at the different reactions I get to the topic. What is wrong? Why is this so difficult for people to understand?
    Michelle

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    • The problem really comes from the top down. There is no training in the credential/masters programs and the misinformation, from books like The Gift of Dyslexia, run rampant. We hope our institute is beginning to help schools and teachers understand dyslexia.

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  9. Thanks so much for this article. We too are new to the dyslexia world having received an AD/HD and Dyslexia diagnosis for my 1st grader just over a month ago. I have been told that we do not qualify for an IEP b/c we aren’t ‘failing’. Even though compared to her abilities of where she should be- she is SIGNFICANTLY failing. We have our 504 meeting with the school tomorrow and I am prayerful that we will get the help we need there. There is an OG trained teacher on staff at our school (the IEP teacher!!!), so we are hoping to get daily instruction there, but are looking at private dyslexia only focused schools for next year. I’m heart broken about having to changes school, but feel like it’s my only option! Any thoughts are WELCOMED!!! Thank you!

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    • If you have a good O-G trained teacher that offers services every dy with no more than 2 other students there is a good chance you won’t have to pull your daughter out of school. Send in someone to observe the qualified teacher first.

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      • I’m in NY. Is it really true that they don’t have to provide the multisensory reading program unless the child is 2 years behind? My daughter is 1 full year behind benchmark and has APD, receptive and expressive language diagnoses. I think she has dyslexia as well and I’m waiting to hear about school’s response to my IEE request. They’re offering her a 504 plan, but she’s already received reading support 5 days per week for 30 minutes for 1 1/2 years and she’s digressing, not improving. The RtI AIMSweb software has her at a below average skill level and says to consider individualizing program, but the school is not. What can I do from here??

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  10. Very well written, thank you for this article. I’ll help spread it around through our social network.

    Together, we can make a difference for these precious children!

    Hans Dekkers
    Dynaread Special Education Corporation

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  11. My son is a second grader in one of the richest school systems in Maryland. He was diagnosed outside of the school system two years ago with dyslexia and ADHD. This diagnosis was made after two months in kindergarten when his teacher suggested I retain him. His brother and father have dyslexia and I knew instantly that he was dyslexic as well. He has had an IEP for a year and a half and is currently two years behind his peers. He has been to their extended year program and came back to school the following year regressing. Next year my son will be going into third grade and he has not made any progress in reading. I clearly believe this is a violation of FAPE. I am my child’s biggest advocate. I write the school letters and call them weekly. I attempt to hold them accountable for my child’s education. However, they are failing my child and are unable to adequately teach him. It is morally incomprehensible that my child is eight-years-old and has not been taught to read. I have documented every letter written between the staff and myself, every IEP draft, and every work sample that has been sent home. I don’t know what to do with this information at this venture but when the time comes I will be prepared to fight for my sons education. My mother-in-law sued the exact same school system twenty four years ago because the they were unable to provide my dyslexic husband an appropriate education. My mother-in-law won and my husband was subsequently sent to a school in the Washington D.C. area for dyslexia. What makes me sad is that not much has changed in twenty four years if my son is going through the exact same thing as my husband. And this is at one of the richest school systems in the country! Unfortunately my child does not qualify for free tutoring because my husband and I make too much. And unfortunately my son cannot attend a private school for dyslexia because they run anywhere from $22,000 to $34,000 a year. My husband and I don’t make enough to afford a private school education. Currently we are planning on sending my son to a dyslexic summer school which will cost $300 a week. We are also paying $85 for an Orton Gillingham tutor once a week. Why is that my tax dollars are going to an education system that is failing my child and how long can I sit back and watch my child fall miserably behind. This is all a bureaucracy and the casualties are our children. My son’s IEP teacher told me privately that my son is the most severely dyslexic child he has ever seen in his fifteen years as a special education teacher. My son receives Linda Wilson one hour a day and has nine hours a week additional hours (not one on one). I ask weekly for more hours and they tell me that any more hours he will be in a non-inclusive environment. At this point…. I don’t care! I just want him to learn. Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

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    • Dear Holly:

      What you address is what drives me and my team. Please visit our site at Dynaread and check what we do. See that we have a solid science team (About Us). See that our pricing is very low, and that we even offer steep discount grants on top of it – when parents request. We are passionate about helping children succeed in reading. And today’s science and technology makes it possible.

      This is not a sales pitch: The things you shared merely fired me up to offer help.

      Hope to hear from you. Feel free to write me directly.

      With warm regards,

      Hans

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  12. Oh and in my school district it costs $300 an hour for an advocate and to be quite honest I’m very jaded. I know people that have utilized these advocates and their child received no educational benefit. I have no problem hiring an advocate or even a lawyer but I want someone to be honest with me and tell me that I have a case.

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  13. We just had an eligibility meeting for my 6yo daughter going into 1st grade. She has dyslexia but is reading a small amount with great difficulty. The school won’t give her the IEP because they say her scores arnt low enough. Her IQ is 119 (90%) but her academic fluency is 13% on WJIII. Her CTOPP showed phonemic awerness and elison at 21% and 16% respectively. The working memory was in low average and one subtests in that was at 16%. There are a few other scores under 25% (below average) but lots in the low average.
    With her IQ shouldn’t she be scoring higher on the WJIII? They say she doesn’t have a LD we say she does. Can you clarify.

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    • Dear Julie:

      May I suggest going to our Dynaread web site and sit down with your daughter for 15 minutes and do our dyslexia test? We specialize in helping older struggling readers and may quite possibly help your daughter as well.

      Our test, incl. review, is free of charge. Our program pricing reveals our dedication, as we even offer grants up to 70% off, which – combined with our payment plan – bring the price down to only $10/month for those we need financial support.

      We have our feet firmly in science, and firmly in reading. Remediation through reading.

      Hope you will visit our site and check us out.

      Passionate to help, with warm regards,

      Hans

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