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Managing a Child's Learning Disability: Believe No One

Children With Disabilities – Child With DisabilitiesMy work experience has taught me to seek the best minds on a particular problem or subject and to value their opinion. This does not extend to my personal life where a more cynical stance exists. The challenge was to combine my professional and personal processes into a more beneficial approach for tackling the school bureaucracy. From Danielle's first day of elementary school right through her last college course the following phrases became a familiar refrain from teachers and administrators: can't do it, won't do it, and don't have to do it. There may be a reluctance to argue with people who are experts in education but you'll need to get over that.

Instead of starting with an attitude of believe everything they say until it is proven wrong, you should believe no one and believe nothing. Why? Because they are protecting their limited resources and their rules. That inherently puts you and the school at cross purposes and does not automatically provide what is best to meet your child's needs. You are the only person who can act on behalf of your child. The school district's financial and/or attitudinal constraints are not your problem. You have entered an inherently adversarial relationship between your child and the educators.


Federal law protects children with diagnosed learning disabilities. If you aren't familiar with what they are you need to obtain a copy of the guidelines and understand what they mean. The bottom line is that your child, once diagnosed with a learning disability, is protected under federal law and entitled to receive an education and to do so in the least restrictive environment. You need to be fully informed about the laws protecting your child and your child's documented accommodations contained in their Individual Education plan (IEP).


While being protected by law sounds good it is always a battle for the limited resources of the school district. What does this mean? The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was originally created by the government in 1975. It has been updated in 1990 and in 2004. The update in 2004, with final guidelines released in August, 2006 expands the responsibilities of the school districts. Virtually without exception, parents will still need to fight for the educational resources for their child.


In order to be covered by IDEA, prior to the most recent revisions, your child needed to be tested and documented to have a learning disability. This diagnosis carried with it specific education requirements that the school district was compelled to comply with. That has not changed. However, there are new guidelines that will include more children than ever under the IDEA umbrella.


As part of the No Child Left Behind initiative, the new guidelines are intended to identify children who are not performing at the class standard as early as first or second grade and intervene in very specific ways to support them to close the gap. The three levels of defined intervention intensify over a period of time in an effort to address deficiencies.

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