On June 6th, TEA issued new guidance on the provision of services for students with dyslexia and related disorders. This comes after the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) released a report finding that TEA failed to comply with certain requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), including the failure to timely refer students for special education testing. According to the guidance, this happened more often when the suspected disability was dyslexia. Here are the highlights:
- IEP teams should consider the impact a student’s reading difficulties have on the student’s participation in the general curriculum and the types of interventions and supports necessary to appropriately serve the student.
- In doing so, the team should engage in “data-based discussions” surrounding how the student’s reading difficulty affects learning, the significance of the gap between current and expected performance, additional concerns that may further exacerbate challenges learning to read, and anticipated rates of improvement. This data and discussion should drive decisions regarding evaluations, needs, and provision of services.
- Any time it is suspected that a student requires special education or related services to provide appropriate reading supports and interventions, a referral for a full and individual evaluation (FIE) should be initiated.
- All students who are identified with dyslexia and who require special education services because of dyslexia or a related disorder should be served under the IDEA as students with a specific learning disability. Students do not need to have a second disabling condition to be considered for eligibility under the IDEA.
- When a student does not require special education services, or an evaluation determines that the student is not eligible for special education, a student may be served through a dyslexia program under Section 504 plan through a district dyslexia program.
- The guidance recognizes that some students with dyslexia reach a point where direct intervention and explicit skill instruction is no longer warranted. In that case, accommodations may be warranted, and those could be provided under Section 504. However, if there is any suspicion that special education services are needed, the student should not be first served through Section 504.
What about Response to Intervention (RtI)?
The guidance does not do away with RtI as an option, with a few caveats. It states that students who are struggling with reading or showing early risk factors associated with dyslexia may receive interventions through a tiered intervention model such as RtI. The statement reads:
Tiered intervention programs play an important role in providing quick access to research-based interventions for struggling students. These systems often serve as an ongoing support for students whose reading difficulties are not the result of a disability under the IDEA or Section 504. RtI might also be an important component of the individualized evaluation used by LEAs for determining whether a student has a specific learning disability (SLD) under the IDEA.
The guidance cautions, however, that students in RtI must be carefully monitored, and timely referral for evaluation under the IDEA be made when, after an appropriate amount of time, the student is not making adequate progress. This referral can occur at any point in the RtI process, and RtI is not required prior to any referrals for special education services. RtI and initiation of initial evaluation can also occur simultaneously.
LEAs must be mindful that dyslexia is considered a learning disability under the IDEA and is included within our Child Find mandate. Every LEA has an obligation to refer any student who is suspected of having a disability and needing special education services for an evaluation under the IDEA. Recall that special education is defined as specially designed instruction, which is defined as modified content, methodology, or delivery of instruction. Dyslexia intervention services may be considered modified methodology or delivery of instruction. The full TEA statement can be found on TEA’s website at:
DAWG BONE: ADMINISTRATORS AND SPED PERSONNEL NEED TO BECOME VERY FAMILIAR WITH THIS NEW GUIDANCE.
Tomorrow: Middle school geography lessons result in federal litigation.