Dyslexia, Specific Learning Disabilities and the IEP

Does your child have dyslexia? Have school district personnel ever told you that they cannot recognize dyslexia as a disability on the IEP? If so, they are incorrect. In fact, IDEA says just the opposite. Dyslexia can be considered one of the many possible specific learning disabilities.

20 U. S. C. § 1401(30)(A) defines a specific learning disability as “a disorder in 1 or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.”  § 1401(30)(B) goes on to provide examples of conditions that should be included as a specific learning disability. In particular, “Such term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.”

The Law Office of James M. Baron represents students and parents in special education and other school-related legal matters throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  Please visit http://www.lawbaron.com, or call 781-209-1166 for more information.

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4 responses

  1. The schools claim that Dyslexia is a medical diagnosis, so therefore they are not authorized to make that diagnosis and won’t name it in the IEP. I have even heard from many parents where they had a diagnosis from a certified Neuro-Psychologist but schools will still not use the word Dyslexia. It happened to me in Massachusetts, and it’s happening all over New Hampshire. Do you have advice for what a parent should say during a TEAM meeting to get the word Dyslexia written into an IEP? I am a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia-NH. We are part of a national grass roots movement to promote Dyslexia Awareness. This question comes up at least once a day. Thank you.

    1. You need to find the right balance between fighting for what you know is right, and simply getting the services that you need. I would start by printing out 20 U. S. C. § 1401(30)(A) (which you can find here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/1401). Show it to the Team, and ask why this statute does not apply to the school district. Is the school district no longer subject to United States law? Ultimately, you might need to bend on the issue of the label, as long as the district provides the services that are needed. For example, are they willing to acknowledge a specific learning disability in reading, and describe in full the characteristics of the disability, as well as the services needed, even if they won’t use the word “dyslexia”? If so, that might need to suffice.

  2. Thank you for that advice. I was afraid that would be your answer. Many parents don’t want to “settle” for only the Specific Learning Disability label, and I think because by having the label, for lack of a better word, of “Dyslexia” it allows the family and student to be able to identify with something and do research on many different strategies to manage the learning disability in a learning environment. I understand what you mean when you say that the child can still get the appropriate services. But by not using the word, or acknowledging the word, it gives the family and child the feeling that it’s a “bad” word. As part of the Decoding Dyslexia movement, we are working hard towards getting legislation passed requiring that schools do early screening in k-12 specifically for Dyslexia, and then identify the disability as Dyslexia and give the appropriate accommodations. Laws have been passed in New Jersey and Arkansas this year requiring just that. And many other states are passing other laws that require other things like mandatory teacher education and definition of the word Dyslexia. Thank you again.

  3. Maybe we should just start referring to it as “The Disability that Shall Not Be Named.”

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