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My Child Has LD—Isn’t He Automatically Eligible for Services?

Special Education Services EligibilityOnce you learn that your child has a learning disability (LD), you’re undoubtedly wondering how to get your child the services he needs to be successful in school. But services are not automatically given to students when they are identified as having LD. A diagnosis of LD does not mean your child is automatically eligible for services. Determining eligibility for special education services is separate process in which parents play a crucial role. Being informed and prepared will help ensure your child gets the help he needs.

To be found eligible for special education on the basis of a Specific Learning Disability, your child needs to meet the requirements established by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These requirements comprise a “two pronged process”:

Prong 1: The student must be determined to have one (or more) or the 13 disabilities listed in IDEA (“Specific Learning Disability” is one of these categories; see the Parent’s Guide to IDEA for a full listing.)


Prong 2: The student must, as a result of that disability, need special education in order to make progress in school and in order to receive benefit from the general education program.

Following your child’s formal evaluation, the school district must schedule a meeting to determine if your child meets both of these criteria and is therefore eligible for special education services. This decision is made by a group of “qualified professionals” (generally including a school principal, school psychologist, special education and general education teachers, and others involved in the evaluation of your child) and the parent.

In making a disability determination (Prong One), IDEA 2004 requires the team rule out the possibility that a student’s academic difficulties primarily result from a lack of appropriate instruction in reading or math, or limited English proficiency. The team is required to draw upon a variety of information about the student, and is not allowed to rely on any single measure or assessment as the sole basis for determining eligibility.

Because the “two pronged process” requires that a student meet both criteria in order to be eligible for special education, it is possible that a student could be determined to have a disability (Prong One), such as a Specific Learning Disability, yet not be in need of special education (Prong Two).

If your child is found not eligible for special education services, be sure to ask about other ways your child might obtain additional educational assistance, such as through accommodations in the general education setting as allowed by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. In addition, IDEA grants you the right to exercise your options for dispute resolution.

If your child is found eligible for special education, the next step is to draft a proposed Individualized Education Program (IEP).

For a complete guide to eligibility determination, see Chapter 6 of NCLD’s Parent Guide to IDEA.

Tags: id-ld