You Asked! Question 19

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Q19:  I am confused by Chapter 10: Special Education and Section 504 Plans of the California Dyslexia Guidelines issued by California Department of Education (CDE) on August 14, 2017. Please provide clarification.

A:  The CDE received a number of comments from individuals and organizations, including Decoding Dyslexia CA, regarding concerns surrounding the information contained in Chapter 10 of the dyslexia guidelines.

The CDE corrected the dyslexia guidelines on September 14, 2017 to reflect statutory law as follows:

  1. In determining whether a student has a specific learning disability under California education law, there are three methods that can be used (i.e. severe discrepancy, response to intervention, or pattern of strengths and weaknesses). The revised guidelines have clarified this by adding an “or” between the 3 methods listed in bullet points 1 – 3 on pages 59 and 60.

Sidebar about the “use of severe discrepancy” in California:  The California Dyslexia Guidelines provide the following information cautioning against the use of severe discrepancy method listed above:

  • Under the law, severe discrepancy may be considered but must not be required (page 104, Appendix C: Legal Citations, United States Education Code, Title 20, Chapter 33, Section 1414(b)(6)),
  • Findings in neuroscience research support the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004 criteria that identification of individuals with dyslexia does not require a discrepancy between reading and other cognitive abilities, such as IQ (Page 7, Chapter 2, The Neuroscience of Dyslexia).

2.  The previous statement that a 504 Plan “will not specify specialized instruction” (page 61) is incorrect and has been updated in the latest revision.

(Please refer to You Asked! questions 17 and 18 for further details on section 504 plans.)

  1. In addition, the Glossary section of the dyslexia guidelines on page 109 has been updated to reflect the addition of “phonological processing” in the definition of Specific Learning Disability (pursuant to CA Education Code Section 56334)

As there are outdated versions of the California Dyslexia Guidelines in circulation, please help us get the word out on these important statutory corrections by widely sharing the updated link to the guidelines and this You Asked! question.

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You Asked! Question 4

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Q4:  Can a below average score in an area of phonological processing (i.e. phonological awareness, phonological memory or rapid naming) be a possible indication of dyslexia?

A:  Yes.

Students who demonstrate weaknesses in the phonemic awareness component of phonological awareness often have difficulties with decoding and spelling. When students have attained rudimentary skills in phoneme blending, phoneme segmentation, and phoneme manipulation (a few of the aspects of phoneme awareness), they are able to learn to associate phonemes (speech sounds) with the letters (graphemes) that represent them in print. Together, phoneme-grapheme association—the foundation of spelling, and grapheme-phoneme association—the foundation of decoding, are called phonics.

Students with slow naming speed, another component of phonological processing, often have problems with reading fluency. Retrieval fluency difficulties are often demonstrated as students struggle to retrieve words during both speaking and written expression (e.g., content specific vocabulary, labels, math or scientific terms, or a formula).

Students with phonological memory deficits may have difficulty with the working memory requirements for keeping track of the steps when decoding an unfamiliar word or in recalling and being able to correctly pronounce an unfamiliar multi-syllable word.

If screening reveals performance below expectations in any of the three components of phonological processing, additional assessment is needed to determine eligibility for special education services under the category of specific learning disability. This comprehensive assessment must include measures of the academic skills (e.g., decoding, spelling, oral reading fluency [rate-accuracy-prosody]) that are often affected by deficits in phonological memory, phonological awareness, and naming speed—and are characteristics of students with dyslexia.

(Source:  Nancy Cushen White, Ed.D. Clinical Professor—Pediatrics-Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine-UCSF /UCSF Dyslexia Research Center)

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