For many years, advocates for students with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia have asked school districts to use the specific language of a student’s diagnosis in their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Unfortunately, school districts routinely refuse to do this, wrongly citing federal law as pretext.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to provide services to students who are adversely affected by one of 13 named conditions, including those with a “Specific Learning Disability.” School district IEP teams sometimes tell parents that they can’t write “dyslexia” on an IEP, and can only use the generic term “learning disability” because that’s the name of the classification that covers it. This isn’t true. There is nothing in the IDEA preventing an IEP team from putting down “Specific Learning Disability” as the classification, while also using specific diagnostic language within the IEP document.
These labels do matter because an IEP is a binding legal document. The more specific and accurate the IEP is, the better it can serve its purpose of meeting the needs of a child—and the more effectively it can be used on that child’s benefit if a school district fails in its obligations.
It is very exciting that S.6581 /A. 8262, a bi-partisan bill sponsored by State Senator Martin Golden and Assembly Member Jo Ann Simon, has passed both houses of the legislature and will now move to the Governor for his signature. This bill directs the NYS Department of Education to issue a clarifying order to local school districts clearly spelling out the importance and legality of putting the words dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia in IEPs.
Language is powerful, and we are hopeful that saying and writing the words will help to raise awareness of the very specific needs of students with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in our school system.
If you happen to live in the districts of either Senator Golden or Assembly Member Simon, who both represent parts of Brooklyn, please take a moment to call or email them and thank them for this important legislation.