April 2022 —
The MLO Minute: “What To Do if You Believe Your Child Has Dyslexia”, By Heather Hulse, J.D., M.S., M.A. —
Many parents grow concerned when they see their child struggling with fundamental skills of reading. A child’s difficulty phonetically decoding the sounds of letters and words may indicate Dyslexia. It can be even more frustrating when parents’ concerns are dismissed by educators. Not only is it important for parents to know what the signs of Dyslexia are, but also what you may expect to hear from educators and how to appropriately respond.
It is first important to understand what is meant by the term Dyslexia. The International Dyslexia Association provides the following definition of Dyslexia:
“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological 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 growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”
So, while you may see reversals of letters such as “b” and “d”, it is not always present in students with Dyslexia. On the other hand, where such reversals are present, depending on the age of the child, they may be dismissed by professionals as developmentally acceptable errors. It is important to understand that while children sometimes do make letter reversals, to consistently see the same reversal patterns is suggestive of more than typical developmental errors.
If you have concerns that your child is struggling with letter sounds or spelling and you believe your child may have Dyslexia, it is important to request, in writing, an evaluation to determine if your child has special education needs. If your concerns about the possibility of Dyslexia have been dismissed as something your school district does not evaluate, your school district may not fully understand the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), the federal law that requires school districts to evaluate students suspected as having a specific learning disability. The IDEA defines specific learning disability as “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.” (Emphasis added.)
Putting your request for a special education evaluation in writing ensures the school district understands your formal request and triggers an obligation from the school district to respond. If the school district refuses to evaluate, it must issue a Notice of Recommended Education Placement (“NOREP”) denying the request for an evaluation. Parents must respond to that NOREP, indicating their disapproval, reasons why, and whether mediation or due process is requested. If your school district is denying your request for a special education evaluation, it is a good idea to consult with a qualified special education attorney to discuss your options and to ensure your child’s complete educational needs are appropriately and sufficiently evaluated.
If the school district agrees with the request for a special education evaluation, it will issue to the parents a Permission to Evaluate (“PTE”), which the parents must sign giving their consent for the evaluation to proceed. The school district will have sixty calendar days to complete the evaluation, excluding the summer months. Once the school district issues the Evaluation Report (“ER”), it is important for parents to fully understand the report and whether it includes sufficient assessments of their child. Reviewing the ER with a qualified special education attorney can help parents be sure their child has been sufficiently evaluated. If parents believe the school district has not completed a sufficient evaluation, an Independent Educational Evaluation (“IEE”) may be requested at school district expense.
If you believe your child has Dyslexia and your child’s school district is not responding appropriately, please feel free to contact our office. Our initial consultation is free, and these matters are often handled on a contingency basis without hourly fees charged to families.