You Asked! – Question 25

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Q25:  Does a student with dyslexia need to be found eligible as having a “Language or Speech Disorder” in order to receive speech-language services? My student is already eligible for special education services under “Specific Learning Disability”.

A:  No, once qualified for special education services, a student is eligible for any service required to meet his educational needs [20 USC Section 1414(d)(1)(A)(i).  A student does not have to be found eligible as having a Language or Speech Disorder in order to receive related speech and language services.

An example of this situation is where you are sitting in your student’s initial IEP meeting and the IEP team agrees that your student is eligible for special education under the category of Specific Learning Disability. As part of the IEP team review of the speech and language assessment, you note that there are some areas of below average scores that are “red flags” that would indicate the need for IEP goals and services for speech & language. However, the Speech & Language Pathologist says that the student isn’t eligible for speech & language services because the student didn’t meet the eligibility criteria for a Language or Speech Disorder.

This is a frequent misunderstanding at IEP team meetings.  The Speech and Language Assessment may determine that the student’s assessment scores are not low enough for the student to be found eligible for special education under the category of a “Language or Speech Disorder”, however, if the student has already been found eligible for special education services under a different impairment category (i.e. Specific Learning Disability, Other Health Impaired, etc.) and the student’s speech and language assessment show that it is also an area of need, then the IEP team should develop speech-language goals and speech-language services should be included in the student’s IEP.

This is important because very low assessment scores are required under California law in order to meet the “Language or Speech Disorder” criteria and it can be very difficult to meet these criteria [5 CCR 3030(b)(11)].

In addition to phonological processing deficits, students with dyslexia may have a history of delayed speech or language development. These individuals may also have a history of impairment in articulation/phonological production and/or receptive/expressive spoken language skills. Although students with dyslexia may exhibit various types of language problems in the toddler and preschool years, their language problems typically become very obvious once they begin trying to learn to read and write [Catts, H.W. and Kamhi, A.G. (Eds.). 2005. Language and reading disabilities (2nd Ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon]. Therefore, there is an increased likelihood that dyslexic students may have a need for speech-language services as a related service in their IEP.

It is important to remember that special education evaluations must be “sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the child’s special education and related service needs, whether or not commonly linked to the disability category in which the child has been classified” [34 CFR 300.304(c)(6)].

According to the Special Education Rights & Responsibilities Manual, “speech and language therapy may be the most frequently requested related service. Speech therapy addresses articulation difficulties, a common disability. Language therapy addresses difficulties with memory, verbal expression, and listening. If your child has any difficulties with speech or language, you should ask the district, in writing, to do a speech and language evaluation. Any student eligible for special education may receive speech and language therapy if she needs the service to benefit from special education.” (SourceSpecial Education Rights & Responsibilities Manual by Community Alliance for Special Education and Disability Rights California, Chapter 5, Question 13, page 5-16).

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You Asked! Question 24

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Q24:  My student is not performing at grade-level in certain areas.  I’m being told by the IEP team that IEP goals have to be aligned with grade-level Common Core State Standards.  Is this correct?

A:  A standards-based IEP is one in which the IEP team has aligned grade level Common Core State Standards (CCSS)1 in its development of the IEP and IEP goals.1

In November 2015, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) released a guidance letter that included the following:

To help make certain that children with disabilities are held to high expectations and have meaningful access to a State’s academic content standards, we write to clarify that an individualized education program (IEP) for an eligible child with a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) must be aligned with the State’s academic content standards for the grade in which the child is enrolled. 2

In a situation where a child is performing significantly below the level of the grade in which the child is enrolled, an IEP Team should determine annual goals that are ambitious but achievable. In other words, the annual goals need not necessarily result in the child’s reaching grade-level within the year covered by the IEP, but the goals should be sufficiently ambitious to help close the gap. The IEP must also include the specialized instruction to address the unique needs of the child that result from the child’s disability necessary to ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that the child can meet the state academic content standards that apply to all children in the State.3

What does this mean?

Whenever it is reasonable to do so, goals should reflect grade level CCSS. However, if the child’s present level of performance in a certain area is well below their grade level, then the IEP team can write goals at the grade level that would be appropriate. That is, goals can also be written to align with CCSS at a level below the grade level in which the child is enrolled.4

Click HERE for sample goals.

1 Common Core State Standards Educational standards describe what students should know and be able to do in each subject in each grade. In California, the State Board of Education decides on the standards for all students, from kindergarten through high school.

2 OSEP’s Dear Colleague Letter on Free Appropriate Public Education, p.1, released November 16, 2015.

 3 Ibid., p5.

4 “Such a practice flies in the face of the purpose and goals of the IDEA, which require the district to develop an individualized program with measurable goals. While some children attending 9th grade and requiring special education are capable of meeting the state 9th grade goals with help, others, like M.S., are so far below grade reading level that expecting them to reach the state goals, even with help, is unrealistic.” E.g., Jefferson County Board of Educ. v. Lolita S., 581 Fed Appx. 760 (11th Cir. 2014)

*Students that have below grade level IEP goals may still participate in the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). Only eligible students may participate in the administration of the California Alternate Assessments (CAAs). Any student identified for alternate testing takes the alternate versions of all tests. Individualized education program (IEP) teams “shall determine when a child with a significant cognitive disability shall participate in an alternate assessment aligned with the alternate academic achievement standards.” (Title 1, Part A, Subpart 1, Sec. 1111(b)(2)(D)(ii)(I)—Every Student Succeeds Act, 2015)

Local educational agencies (LEAs) are required to notify the California Department of Education if they believe that they will exceed 1 percent of its total assessed student population taking California Alternate Assessments; however, there are no repercussions to LEAs for exceeding this threshold. The 1 Percent Threshold on Alternate Assessments

Authored by: Lori Chang, Parent Advocate/non-attorney advocate

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