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Dyslexia and the Special Education Law

by Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley, Guest Blogger

The mere utterance of the word dyslexia within the confines of a school campus can stop a conversation and create a divide between a parent and that school. This does not have to be the case and there is information teachers can arm themselves with and become a resource and support for parents/guardians who are concerned about their children. I listed a few myths and misconceptions below and their counterpart, the truth.

Dyslexia is a broad term and we do not recognize it:

Not so fast. It is listed in IDEA as one of the qualifying conditions: Yep, right there under Specific Learning Disability (SLD), check it out for yourself:

Specific learning disability means 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 an 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.

Also important to note is that SLD is a broad term which encompasses several conditions. This is important because stating that dyslexia is a broad term as an excuse to dismiss it is ubiquitous in many an IEP/SST/504 meeting – it is just not true.

It’s too early to test for dyslexia:

Symptoms of dyslexia present themselves as early as three years old. Standardized testing can detect it as early as kindergarten – if conducted by a trained professional. Legally, failure to identify a child who is obviously struggling can cost the school district in the future, so don’t be afraid to recommend a student for testing early in their schooling. This will not only save the school district money in the future, but possible save the child from an unpleasant school experience.

We will just hold him back and he will ‘soar.”

This might the most detrimental thing we can do to a child with dyslexia. If a child with dyslexia is held back and the intervention is the same as the year before, he will not improve. The intervention has to change, not the child.

I don’t need to defend my credential:

Well, yes you do. Please resist the very natural temptation to become defensive when asked about your credentials: No Child Left Behind (NCLB) gives parents the right to ask the following questions:

(1) Whether the teacher has met State qualification and licensing criteria for the grade levels and subject areas in which the teacher provides instruction;

(2) Whether the teacher is teaching under emergency or other provisional status through which State qualification or licensing criteria have been waived.

(3) The baccalaureate degree major of the teacher and any other graduate certification or degree held by the teacher, and the field of discipline of the certification or degree.

(4) Whether the child is provided services by paraprofessionals and, if so, their qualifications.

A teacher educated about dyslexia can be the one person who saves a child and his/her family from years of frustration and anxiety. That teacher can play a pivotal role in changing the whole culture of a school. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child and a village of advocates to raise a child who struggles.


About the Author


Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley

Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley is the co-owner of the Dyslexia Training Institute and a published author and researcher of dyslexia. She received her doctorate in Literacy with a specialization in reading and dyslexia from San Diego State University and the University of San Diego. She is a trained Special Education Advocate assisting parents and children through the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and 504 Plan process. Dr. Kelli is an adjunct professor of reading, literacy coordinator and a tutor trainer. Kelli is trained by a fellow of the Orton-Gillingham Academy and in the Lindamood-Bell, RAVE-O and Wilson Reading Programs.Kelli is the Past-President of the San Diego Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, as well as a board member of the Southern California Library Literacy Network (SCLLN). She is a professional developer for California Library Literacy Services (CLLS) as well as a Literacy Consultant for the San Diego Council on Literacy. She was awarded the Jane Johnson Fellowship and the Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) scholarship. Kelli has presented at numerous conferences as well as provided professional development for k-12 teachers. She created and produced Dyslexia for a Day and is currently writing Putting the D in to the IEP.  Join the Dyslexia Training Institute on Facebook.

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