New York State Education Department Releases Guidance on Law Related to Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia

Harris Beach PLLC

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) recently released guidance related to students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia.  As we informed you through a Legal Alert issued in September 2017, the Commissioner was required to release such guidance within one year after the State Legislature updated the Education Law in August 2017.   This amendment provided that school districts may use the terms dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia in “evaluations, eligibility determinations, or in developing an individualized education program (IEP).”  The August 2017 update to the law reflected similar guidance from the United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) in 2015, which we covered in this Legal Alert.

The NYSED guidance includes three new documents to assist schools with supporting students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia.  One such document is entitled “Meeting the Needs of Students with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia.”  This guidance provides brief recommendations for implementing interventions for students with these disorders, referring such students to the Committee on Special Education (CSE), conducting evaluations, and developing IEPs.  The document defines dyslexia as “a condition affecting reading skills often characterized by difficulties in areas including (but not limited to) phonological processing, decoding, fluency, and/or spelling.”  Dysgraphia is defined as “a condition impacting writing skills often characterized by difficulties in areas including (but not limited to) legibility and automaticity.”  Dyscalculia is “a condition impacting math skills often characterized by difficulties in areas including (but not limited to) working memory, spatial/quantity concepts impacting number sense, and symbol recognition/use.”  Notably, this guidance reflects the first time NYSED has provided definitions of these three specific learning disorders.

NYSED also released additional guidance entitled: “Students with Disabilities Resulting from Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia: Questions and Answers.”  This document provides further information on the identification, evaluation, and remediation of the specific learning disorders.  Of note, it also emphasizes that a diagnosis of dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia alone is not sufficient to classify a student as being in need of special education programs and services; rather, the student must also qualify as having a need for such services to qualify for classification.  Other students with these disorders who do not have needs that arise to special education classification may receive sufficient intervention through a response to intervention and/or multi-tiered system of supports model.

Finally, NYSED released a flowchart of response to intervention methods called “Identification of Students with Learning Disabilities Within a Multi-Tiered System of Support.”  This provides students with targeted remediation in academic areas of weakness and monitoring progress prior to referring to the CSE.

While useful and informative, this updated guidance does not change the methods for CSEs to identify and address student needs related to dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia.  Students with such diagnoses who qualify for special education classification due to a need for special education programs and services would continue to meet eligibility as students with learning disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 200.1(zz) of the Commissioner’s Regulations.  CSEs were always permitted to use the terms dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia when developing students’ IEPs.  This guidance continues to demonstrate that CSEs have the ability to consider these specific diagnoses, but are not required to use such diagnoses when developing students’ IEPs.  Rather, for students with learning disabilities, a CSE must develop IEPs that identify and address the student’s specific needs related to that disability.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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