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Does my child need special education services?: Specific Learning Disabilities (SLDs)

- Daniel Cabral, Licensed Educational Psychologist (LEP3746)

Special education services get a bad rep. I think what comes to mind most often for parents is that special education is for students with the most severe handicaps or delays. What doesn't come often come to mind are those students who struggle in specific subjects. Did you know that over 32% of special education students have a specific learning disability (SLD) out of all 13 categories?

To be eligible for a specific learning disability in school you must have near-average or above intellectual ability. Not really the picture people usually paint in terms of special education! Still, it can be frustrating that your child has potential but you don't see the results. They still can't read, write, or do math. To make matters worse, the child might also start to look off-task in class, have behavior problems, or seem unmotivated. If Susie could just try harder then she would get it? Right? You might try motivating with rewards, you might try tutoring, and things may still not be going well.

So, where does that leave you and your child? How can you move forward? Will they always struggle? If you have taken an honest look into and tried to support in some of these ways, maybe something more is happening. With a specific learning disability, students have near-average and above intellectual ability. However, that does not mean that your child is filtering and working with the information they see, touch, or hear in the correct ways. There are psychological processes, fancy word for how we interpret information, that are sometimes underdeveloped or developed incorrectly. When these areas misfire, your budding genius may be able to recite their favorite story aloud by heart but can't seem to read new words at all.

The most common specific learning disability is in reading. Problems with knowing and working with the sounds in words are often the culprit. These kiddos might not be able to rhyme, they might mishear what you are saying, or have trouble remembering the sounds for even single letters let alone putting those sounds together to make a whole word. And that's a big problem that has nothing to do with your child's intelligence or motivation!

*Admittedly this portion is a plug for my own services but only because I know that to get anywhere with solving some of these problems you need to be armed with the right information about what is going on.*

A Licensed Educational Psychologist (LEP) can tell you early on in whether or not your child's difficulties are due to motivation, behavior, if there is a learning disability, or other disability. Without this information, you and even the school might continue to spin your wheels trying to get Johnny to read at grade level. Sometimes the schools do these assessments, but often only when your child is truly far behind and failing. And that isn't good for anyone. A thorough assessment provides the right keys to your child's strengths and weaknesses so you know what to do to support them. If you disagree with a school district assessment, you can always request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) to be completed by a Licensed Educational Psychologist (LEP). This can help get you some answers and access to services that your child might really need!

Feel free to contact us using our contact us for more information or consult.

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