We recently invited our members to provide feedback about the difficulties, if any, they are facing in trying to qualify their children with dyslexia for special education services. We crossed our fingers and closed our eyes and hoped no one would respond. Well, we have good news and bad news.
I always like to get the bad news over with first, so... We heard from numerous frustrated and despondent parents who simply could not understand or believe that their schools could refuse to help their children learn how to read. The reasons schools are giving fall into 5 basic categories. Here's a summary:
1. "Your child isn't far enough behind." One parent of a first grader wrote: "My son did not qualify...he was not far enough behind grade level wise. I just recently reread all of the papers from the testing and still find it hard to believe they could not offer him help of some sort."
2. "We don't test for dyslexia." Some parents report being told that schools don't test for dyslexia, and the parents just assumed that their only recourse was to pay for an expensive, private evaluation.
3. "Your child isn't failing." A particularly incredulous parent wrote: "I was told that bc my children were not failing, they could not give them the 504 or IEP. I told them that I didn't understand how as educators, they could tell me that they wouldn't help my children until they were failing."
4. "Your child is too smart to qualify for special education." More than a few parents have reported being told their children's IQ's were too high to have dyslexia. In the words of one mom, "The school refused to evaluate [my daughter] as they said her IQ was too high for special Ed so we had to have her evaluated privately."
5. "Dyslexia is a medical diagnosis. We can't diagnose medical conditions in school."
Ready for the good news? There are actually ways to challenge each and every one of the reasons above by citing specific provisions of federal laws and regulations. And over the coming weeks, we are going to post blog entries that address in detail, one at a time, each of these 5 obstacles parents are facing around our state and how to address them. Of course then there's the issue of what do we DO about the dyslexia even if the school agrees to write an IEP, another huge problem, but let's just take this one step at a time.
For now, you can find fantastic advice on the website of The Dyslexia Training Institute. Check out their "Tips for getting a dyslexia diagnosis." We are also still trying to collect more information, so if you have anything to add about your family's struggle to get services in school, please let us know. Not only do we plan to address the issues here on this blog, but we want to provide this important feedback to state officials as we continue our efforts to make things easier for all families. And of course if you have any suggestions, tips, or advice for other parents, please share them here in the comments. That's what Decoding Dyslexia is all about!
Finally, there is a terrific talk coming up next week (1/15 at 6:30pm) sponsored by Parents Education Network - Phoenix Affiliate on the subject of school and private evaluations and your legal rights. Parents will hear from top notch professionals -- a special education attorney and a neuropsychologist -- about the evaluation process. Decoding Dyslexia is also having an impromptu "meet up" right before the PEN Phoenix talk -- 5:30pm nearby at La Grande Orange. Meriah and I would love to see you there.
Hang in there! Remember your child's many gifts and strengths, and have confidence that you WILL figure all this out!