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My Child May be in Special Ed but He’s Not a Short Bus Kid

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My dyslexic son is classified as special education.

His only “disability” is dyslexia and dysgraphia.  He doesn’t have any other condition.

He can run, play, socially interact with his peers, etc.

I refuse to think of my son as disabled because he’s NOT.

So why then is he special education?  Because our schools are not designed for how his brain functions, and because the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) says that he’s legally entitled to have his dyslexia recognized and therefore to be provided certain protections and to be taught in the manner in which he learns.

But know this, special education is a service, not a place.

At this point I know a few people who will cringe and start citing specific passages of IDEA or the Texas Dyslexia Handbook (revised 2018), but that’s not necessary.

Really folks, thank you but no.

What I know is that IDEA has a certain qualification called Specific Learning Disability and Dyslexia is a Specific Learning Disability.  On multiple evaluations, my son’s struggle with reading and comprehension is easily documented.  Ask him directly about his reading and he’ll tell you that he could only start to read with any level of confidence fairly recently.  With me he’ll still cheat and ask me to do it for him instead (no one else lets him get away with it).

504 is a civil rights law.  IDEA is a special education law.  Two different laws.  Two different kinds of attorneys.

Now at least in Texas things get really interesting.  Texas has always pushed dyslexia to 504 and denied IDEA.  They’re in a lot of trouble for that, thus the interesting part.  We have a new Handbook.  Districts are hiring more Special Education teachers.  There are opposing camps in the advocacy community regarding 504 v IDEA.  Things can get pretty heated depending on who you ask about it all (and some of the stories are just HYSTERICAL! (Sorry but they are!)).

Here’s what I know and why I’ve done what I’ve done.

504 does not protect the parent’s right in the discussion.  Schools can alter accommodations / services without parental input.

Sorry, but true and not cool.

504 does not guarantee program fidelity.

Sorry, but again, true.

Now here’s where things get entertaining depending on your audience.

504 is accommodations only.  IDEA is services and accommodations.

Districts are set up for dyslexia to fall under General Education, thus 504, so that’s where all of the knowledge lies and where service, if the district has the team in place, offers it.

Districts are not set up to service dyslexia under Special Education, thus the sudden and dramatic hiring of special education teachers across the state.

If your child is SpEd, the special education teachers can and will offer dyslexia intervention, but ask this, are they trained to do so?

But, did you know that IDEA does NOT differentiate WHO CAN TEACH YOUR CHILD, just that services must be provided, if they are necessary.  Even though it’s a Special Education law, it does not dictate that services HAVE to be done by the Special Education department.

Trust me, I hung my hat on that particular golden nugget!

I sought Special Education for the protections of the law, to ensure my authority is not taken away from me, and to ensure my son gets what he NEEDS from the school system.

Oh, and I wanted them to take OWNERSHIP of his remediation instead of brushing it aside and having unrealistic expectations when they refuse to help properly.

So yes, my son is in the Special Education program, but that does not mean anything more than his right to services and accommodations for his dyslexia and how that emanates in his life, and as my husband said, “He’s an extremely bright boy completely capable of learning, but he learns in a certain way or he doesn’t learn at all; so of course he belongs in Special Education.”


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