Big Changes with Dyslexia…Part One

I’m going to spend the rest of this week discussing the major changes in how we will be serving students with dyslexia.  T.E.A. has issued a thorough and straightforward set of FAQs (August 3) that will form the basis for the Daily Dawg today, tomorrow and Friday. 

For today, the Big News: IDEA is the only game in town for kids who need instruction to address their dyslexia.  Texas has moved in this direction incrementally.  Historically, Texas served students with dyslexia mostly through Section 504 programs.  A few years ago T.E.A. made it clear that the evaluation process needed to be one that satisfied IDEA standards. Now the other shoe has dropped. It’s not just the evaluation that has to meet IDEA standards, but also, the day-to-day instruction. 

The new law (HB 3928) directs the State Board to revise the Dyslexia Handbook in a way that “makes no distinction” between “standard protocol dyslexia instruction” and “special ed.”  But T.E.A. is not waiting for those revisions.  The law is in effect now, and T.E.A. is putting schools on notice.  Look at Question 6 in the FAQ:

Q.  Is an evidence-based dyslexia program (also known as SPDI) considered SDI, i.e. a special education service?

A.  Yes, an evidence-based dyslexia program is a special education service.

And this from Question 8:

The provision of an evidence-based dyslexia program is considered SDI, as that term is defined under IDEA. This means that an evidence-based dyslexia program is only available to students who have been identified with dyslexia and are served under IDEA, which prescribes the legal requirements for special education and related services.

Think of it this way: SPDI=Evidence-Based Dyslexia Program=Special Education.

In simple terms, this means that if an ARD Committee determines that the student 1) has dyslexia; and 2) needs the type of instruction we provide through “standard protocol dyslexia instruction” or any other “evidence-based dyslexia program” the student is eligible for special education, and can only receive those services pursuant to an IEP.  A 504 plan will not cut it.

Are there students with dyslexia who do not need instruction to address their needs?  Yes. These students would not be eligible for instructional services to address their dyslexia, but they could have accommodations in the regular classroom.  The FAQ offers some examples of “regular education aids and services” such as “giving extra time for assignments and allowing speech-to-text capabilities when given a writing assignment.”  Then this:

While a Section 504 plan could be appropriate for those needs, the need for an evidence-based dyslexia program crosses over into a special education need.

Notice the difference.  Extra time and speech-to-text translation are 504 accommodations because they are not instruction.  Special ed is about instruction, and any instruction that is designed for students with dyslexia is special ed.

What if a parent balks at these changes?  There are many kids currently served with a 504 plan, and many parents are happy with this arrangement.  This is addressed in Q7:

If the parent of a student receiving this type of instruction under a Section 504 accommodation plan refuses to consent to an FIIE, the LEA has the option of using due process and/or mediation to seek consent to evaluate.

Absent any directives prescribed by the SBOE through its upcoming rule and Handbook revisions, TEA expects that a student will no longer be eligible to receive instruction in an evidence-based dyslexia program through a Section 504 accommodation plan if a parent refuses to consent to an FIIE.

Got dyslexia?  Need instructional services?  IDEA is the only game in town. 

So…where does that leave us with those students on a 504 plan? How quickly do we need to move?  Tune in tomorrow!


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at

Tomorrow: the transition from 504 to IDEA….