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Why is there no IEP for dyslexia!?

Why is there no IEP or disability category for dyslexia?

As a special education consultant, I am asked this all the time. Some studies indicate that as many as one in five children suffer from this barrier to reading. When I was a kid, it never really occurred to me that learning to read was difficult, until my best friend started missing PE class to go to something called ‘intervention.’ At the time, I was jealous. She got to play on computers while I had to stay outside and sweat! Little did I know, she was struggling to read!!!

Fast forward to adulthood, and I became a special education teacher. After teaching many kids with reading challenges, I knew I wanted to know more, so I went back to school for a master's degree and a reading specialist certification.

I am so thankful for my training, as I've needed it to help my daughter, who failed the dyslexia screening, and was placed in the ‘high risk’ category for dyslexia.

Immediately, my husband asked about an IEP for her. He was perplexed when I said that IEPs do not cover dyslexia. Per se.

IEPs are technically limited to the 13 IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) recognized categories: autism spectrum disorder, developmental delay, intellectual disability, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, deaf or hard of hearing, visually impaired, deaf-blind, emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairment, multiple disabilities, traumatic brain injury, and other health impaired.

There are a few workarounds, however. A diagnosis of other health impaired can include students with diagnoses of ADD, ADHD, epilepsy, diabetes, organ transplant, etc. If a student's health impairment affects their ability to access the general education curriculum to such a degree as indicates eligibility, that student can receive an IEP.

One route for providing an IEP to a student with dyslexia is the diagnosis of a specific learning disability, through which we can provide support to students who have specific disabilities in a variety of subjects. Sometimes, the effects of dyslexia are such that it affects a student's ability to learn to read, write, and/or spell to such a degree that the student qualifies for a special education services. The same goes for dysgraphia and dyscalculia.

Sometimes though, although a student may have dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia, their disability does not affect them to such a degree that they qualify for a specific learning disability diagnosis but that is not the end of the story.

Students who have a diagnosis of dyslexia, or any other medical or learning diagnosis, may qualify for educational support through an IAP, individual accommodation plan, otherwise known as a 504 plan.

While a 504 plan does not provide specialized instruction, it does provide accommodations to help students access the curriculum. Common accommodations for students living with dyslexia include (but are not limited to!):

  • extended time,

  • testing in a reduced distraction environment,

  • spelling errors not penalized,

  • word bank provided,

  • predictive text software provided,

  • multiple choice spelling tests,

  • provide homework lists

  • others

But, what about materials and tests read aloud? This is a common question I am asked. It makes sense! Why wouldn’t a student with a reading challenge such as dyslexia have tests read aloud to them?

In the state of Louisiana, students must qualify to have their materials read aloud. There is an assessment given to students with reading barriers in order to qualify for this accommodation. Students must score 2+ grades behind their current grade in order to qualify. There are other restrictions, too.

If you suspect your child may be a child with dyslexia, speak with your school about screening and assessment. As always, if you need support navigating the system, call your friendly special education advocate.


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