There’s a viral post circulating on the Internet from a Texas special education professor: “It’s OK to say dyslexia!” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tweeted shortly before his agency released guidance targeting the needs of the 2.5 million students with a learning disability. But while the government highlights the unique needs of students with learning disabilities, they are seemingly getting lost in misguided policies and practices in the name of educational equity.”
What she protests (rightly) is the fact that reading and math scores for 4th and 8th graders have remained stagnant or declining since 2013. Also, in the name of inclusion, students with learning disabilities are being denied appropriate remediation because of a desire to keep them in general education classrooms.
For dyslexic students, we respectfully put forth that the challenge is much more than the choice between general or special ed.
By the current gold standard definition of dyslexia, dyslexic students show unexpected difficulties in the areas of reading, writing, and spelling in relation to other cognitive abilities. The word ‘unexpected’ is used because general intelligence is either average or above average.
In our clinic, when parents asked us whether their student should go to special education pull-out, we almost always recommended they talk to the teacher and find out more about the class.
Questions to Ask:
1. Strengths + Challenges? Is my student receiving an appropriate education for both his / her intellectual abilities and strengths as well as challenges? Appropriate education includes receiving appropriate levels of challenge in problem solving and higher order thinking as well as learning new information. Because many dyslexic students are twice exceptional (gifted with dyslexia), an appropriate education for them may be gifted education classes with accommodations and specific interventions. The challenge with a dyslexia-appropriate education is that effective remediation requires building block work with phonemes and specific aspects of language, but these students also crave creative and conceptual thinking, so both needs must be met.
2. Has the teacher been trained in dyslexia-effective strategies? There is no requirement for schools of education to require dyslexia education, therefore, unfortunately special education teachers may not be adequately trained.
3. Who else is in the pull-out classroom? Unfortunately, problematic situations can arise because dyslexic students are placed in resource rooms with students with severe behavioral issues or very low IQ. Students and parents must make individual decisions about education based on practical realities of particular classrooms and teachers.
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