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Updated: Apr 29

Frustrated boy and mother doing homework at a computer

Awhile ago, I wrote about the emotions of IEP meetings reflecting on my first one. As many parents and educators know, the process is not easy at many points.

I was much better prepared and took better notes the second time around, when after three years, we had to requalify my child in my school district. As Dysgraphia Life has mentioned before, in our school district and many others, you have to qualify under "Specific Learning Disability of Written Expression" (not using the word dysgraphia).

So what makes a child eligible for Special Education under "Specific Learning Disability of Written Expression"? Here's a rundown of what we had to prove.

The eligibility committee was made up of a parent, a psychologist, a special education teacher, a general education teacher, a social worker, and the principal. While I didn't bring an advocate because I felt we would be in good shape this time around, an advocate is another person we could have included and in many cases, it can be helpful.

To be eligible, the committee had to say yes to ALL of the following criteria for the student:

  • The student has been provided with learning experiences and instruction appropriate for the student's age or approved grade level standards

  • The student does not achieve adequately achieve for the student's age or intellectual ability to meet grade-level standards in the area of: Written Expression/Spelling

  • The student demonstrates a processing disorder that impacts the student in the above areas of underachievement. (Note: here there were subcategories of basic psychological processes involved in using or understanding language that could be checked off. Some of the relevant ones were: visual motor integration, working memory, perceptual motor/processing speed, visual discrimination, visual sequencing, phonological processing, visual memory, and visual-spatial processing)

  • The committee considered the relevant behavior noted during the observation of the student and the relationship of that behavior to the academic functioning

  • Evaluation outcome - at least one of these three had to be checked:

    • Using the discrepancy model, the student obtains scores that demonstrate that a severe discrepancy exists between the student's achievement and intellectual ability in one or more areas of specific learning disability

    • Using response to evidence based intervention, the student does not make sufficient progress to meet age or grade-level standards

    • The student exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement, or both, relative to age, grade level standards, or intellectual ability, that is determined to be relevant to the identification of specific learning disability

  • The evaluation group determines the student’s underachievement is NOT primarily the result of one of the following: A visual, hearing, or motor disability; Intellectual disability; Emotional or behavioral disability; Environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage; Limited English proficiency

  • The specific learning disability results in an adverse effect on the student's educational performance. A description was needed.

  • The student requires specially designed instruction as a result of the specific learning disability. A description was needed.

Plus there was a final determination checkbox of whether all the criteria was met.

It's a lot.

As I said, I was in good shape this time. I knew headed into the meeting (this 2nd time) that the special education teacher had been working with my student for 2 years nearly one-on-one and had a good understanding of my child's strengths and difficulties. Plus, I had both outside psychological testing and school based testing that supported the determination.

But I always think about the people who don't have all of that. How does a single, working mother who can't make it to appointments or a family who speaks English as a second language collect enough data to make all of these arguments? It's a challenge. And the emotional challenges persist -- it is difficult to argue that your child who is amazing in so many ways is underperforming and has learning disorders.

So as we head into May, when many people are trying to qualify, requalify, and update IEPs and 504 plans for next school year, I hope that Dysgraphia Life can provide you with some information that helps - whether it be this blog describing what is needed for eligibility, our goals and accommodations pages, or our Dysgraphia IEPs book. Please know we are here for the community and are constantly trying to expand our offerings.

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