Our office receives many calls asking about their child's rights related to Dyslexia. In a nutshell, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal law governing special education throughout the country. The IDEA specifically lists thirteen eligibility categories that students may qualify under to receive special education supports and services. Although Dyslexia is not specifically listed as a separate eligibility category under the IDEA, it is included within the category of Specific Learning Disability (SLD). Thus, under federal law, children with Dyslexia who require special education, usually qualify under the category of SLD. Additionally, many states have passed laws specifically related to Dyslexia including California that go above and beyond what the federal law requires. Specifically, California added a few different state statutes including section 56335 which reads in part:
The Superintendent shall develop program guidelines for dyslexia to be used to assist regular education teachers, special education teachers, and parents to identify and assess pupils with dyslexia, and to plan, provide, evaluate, and improve educational services to pupils with dyslexia. For purposes of this section, "educational services" means an evidence-based, multisensory, direct, explicit, structured, and sequential approach to instructing pupils who have dyslexia (Cal. Ed. Code sec. 56335(a)).
A common question our office receives regarding Dyslexia, is what specific methodologies school districts are required to use and if parents themselves can choose what methodologies to use -- for example Orton Gillingham or Lindamood-Bell to name a few. Although parents cannot dictate what programs school districts must provide their child, if a certain methodology is required so that the child is provided a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), school districts may have to provide it. The tricky part is proving that a specific program is required, as opposed to a district-chosen program. Here are some criteria to consider when determining whether a District-chosen program may not be providing your child a FAPE:
· Not meeting goals as written within the Individualized Education Program (IEP)
· The program has been in place for an extended period of time with little to no progress (for example, concerning pre/post testing scores)
· Standardized testing scores declining from year to year
· Teacher feedback indicating a lack of progress or concern
· Parent observation that learning has stagnated or there is regression
· Private provider opinion that child isn't appropriately progressing
Even if school districts don't feel a parent-chosen program is necessary, they should strongly consider parent concerns brought forth at IEP meetings, including any request for a new and specific program addressed to meet your child's unique needs. Simply rejecting a parent's request for a specific program without properly investigating specific concerns and requests is inappropriate.
In addition to the requirement to hold IEP's at least annually, school districts must evaluate special education students in all areas of unique need every three years. However, it is often a good idea to request assessment earlier than three years, especially testing in the area of academic achievement, including Dyslexia. This allows you to monitor testing scores from year to year to see if there has been progress, stagnation or regression. Although testing is only one item to be considered, it is a strong indicator of educational progress or a lack of it. Of course, any time you have concerns, you may contact your child's school, request an IEP meeting and provide 24-hours written notice of your intent to audio-record the IEP meeting. That way, you have a clear record of what occurred at the meeting and any statements made regarding your child's education.
Danielle Augustin is a founding partner of Augustin Egelsee LLP, a law firm representing children and families with special education needs. Danielle has been practicing law for 20 years, first as a deputy district attorney in Orange County, California, then as a special education student attorney for the past 14 years. For more information about special education law, go to: www.OcKidsLaw.com or call 714-282-1242.