This is a follow up to a recent blog post – “Back in the Zone (of No Zone): Back in the Zone (of No Zone).

Parents frequently talk to me about their frustration (insistence) that schools diagnose their child’s  dyslexia (or other learning disorders for that matter).

One of my favorite books in the field, “Dyslexia Advocate:  How to Advocate for a Child Within the Public School System,” by Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley, comments on this.

As she notes:

“School districts do not diagnose anything.  They don’t diagnose ADHD, autism, dyslexia, nothing.   It may seem as if they do because we tend to hear the terms autism and ADHD thrown around in meetings all the time, but they cannot diagnose those qualifying conditions either.  They can only determine eligibility under specific eligibility categories.  In the case of dyslexia, they will be looking at the specific learning disability (SLD category.”

Something that is a common occurrence will be a parent bringing testing to me that was conducted by the school special education team.   Numbers will jump out at me suggesting weaknesses, “red-flags” and even indicators of “dyslexia” or related learning disorders.

Yet, to the consternation of the parents quite often they are told that the child is not eligible for an IEP and will not be getting any services.

Each state and, to my knowledge, each school district interprets the federal code differently as to what leads to eligibility.

As Dr. Sandman-Hurley states:

“To qualify for special education services, the child must meet two requirements, which is the two-pronged approach to eligibility.  First, the child must have a disability and show the need for services.  In other words, just because a student has dyslexia (or any other disability) does not mean they automatically qualify for services.  Second, it must be shown that the child needs services in order to succeed in the general education classroom.”

In New Jersey, for example, there is an emphasis on the child’s Full Scale Intelligence Quotient or “FSIQ” in determining eligibility.  A statistically significant discrepancy must be shown between the FSIQ and the overall score in academic achievement (typically reading).

Infuriating and puzzling as this may be to parents, children showing signs of “dyslexia” or reading/learning disabilities often  do not have such a discrepancy in their assessment, and therefore they will not be receiving services.

Even if the child is found to be eligible for services, rarely is the child given what is called “direct instruction with multisensory methodologies,” which research and clinical experience show to be the most effective in remediating the deficiencies.

More commonly, the child is given, “In-Class Support,” which is much harder to define than direct instruction.  In-Class Support is the equivalent of having an adult in the deep end of the pool to keep an eye on the weak swimmers to make sure they don’t drown.

This is not teaching the child to swim.

My best advice to parents in this situation is to “bite the bullet” and seek services outside of the school.  While it may not be ideal, more and more providers of these methods are starting to report offering such instruction on-line with reasonable effectiveness.

This recommendation puts you more in the driver’s seat.  You can choose to take an effective action step, rather than remain in the  passive  position of hoping that the school will step-up.

Takeaway Point

Schools don’t diagnose.  They determine eligibility for an IEP.  Even if you obtain an IEP, it does not mean your child will receive direct instruction.

Take effective action on your own.