According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 2.4 million students are diagnosed with specific learning disabilities (SLD) and receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This represents 41% of all students receiving special education services. If your child is having difficulty in school, they may learn differently from other students. Parents are often the first to notice that “something doesn’t seem right.”
Learning disability is a general term that describes specific kinds of learning problems. A learning disability can cause a person to have trouble learning and using certain skills. The skills most often affected are: reading, writing, listening, speaking, reasoning, and doing math.
“Learning disabilities” is not the only term used to describe these difficulties. Others include:
- dyslexia—which refers to difficulties in reading;
- dysgraphia—which refers to difficulties in writing; and
- dyscalculia—which refers to difficulties in math.
All of these are considered learning disabilities. Many children with learning disabilities may also struggle with attention. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and adulthood. Sometimes knowing what to do and where to find help can be confusing. We want to help.
Consider these options to assist your child:
- Request a special education evaluation through your child’s school. Your child may be eligible for an Individualized Education Program or a Section 504 Plan. The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) policy guidance letter clarifies that there is nothing in the IDEA that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia in IDEA evaluation, eligibility determinations, or IEP documents.
- Discuss your concerns with your child’s pediatrician.
- Some struggling learners may benefit from an approach called Response to Intervention (RtI).
- While RtI is very beneficial for some students if you are concerned that your child may have a learning disability and you would like the school to do a comprehensive special education evaluation, RtI cannot be used to delay your evaluation request. Your right to a full evaluation is outlined by this memo from the Office of Special Education Programs.
- Ask your child’s school to explore options for Assistive Technology.
- Review the Parent Toolkit on Understood (National Center for Learning Disabilities) to learn more about how to help your child and to advocate for their best interests.