Perhaps nothing is more frustrating and resulting in tremendous parental consternation than when they hear the following from me after I’ve done an assessment:

“Yes, you were right.  The results validate your concerns.  Your child has a serious reading (spelling and writing) disorder.  He needs tremendous help, but there’s just one problem.  The school’s unlikely to do anything about it.”

Falling out of their chairs as they hear this, I always worry about the “kill the messenger effect.”

“What do you mean,” they ask me.  “How can that be? You say it right in your report that the child has a “severe learning disorder.”

As my consistent mission is to talk to parents in “plain, down-to-earth language,” I take a deep breath for about the 9,000th time in my career and dive in the pool.

“Well, the State of New Jersey, uses the following in special education code to determine whether a child will be found eligible or not.”

A specific learning disability can be determined when a severe discrepancy is found between the student’s current achievement and intellectual ability in one or more of the following areas:

As the parents turn different colors, I try and continue.

“So, if the child is in the 10th %ile of reading as your child is on the tests I gave and his overall IQ score placed him in the 19th %ile, according to the statistical formula, your child is not eligible.  He is offered  nothing.  Next case.”

Here’s what G. Emerson Dickman,  the renowned special education attorney/special education consultant and former president of the International Dyslexia Association has to say on the topic:

The Aptitude/Achievement discrepancy formula and other approaches to determine eligibility for services offer help only after the seeds of emotional decompensation are planted and a child has reaped a bitter harvest of failure.  The use of “severe discrepancy” to justify eligibility is a policy intended to rationalize decision making without engaging or challenging a sense of morality, justice, ethics or expertise.  ‘I am sorry, he didn’t make the cutoff; it is not my fault.’”

(There will be more next week,  but one last point.  This post and my guess is that Emerson Dickman would agree, is in no way meant to cast aspersions on teachers or special education team members.  Virtually all that I’ve met over the years are caring people who wan to do right by the children they serve.  However, in states like New Jersey and others that use a “severe discrepancy formula” their hands are tied by the bad hand they’ve been dealt.)


Copyright, 2022

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