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1) What is LD?

The following articles provide you with some basic information about learning disabilities:

These articles and others are available on LD OnLine, particularly in the LD Topics section.

2) Can you recommend summer camps especially for kids with special needs?

As a non-profit organization, we can not recommend specific camps. We can, however, provide you with articles that will give you the information you need. It is important to be a careful consumer when looking for a program for a child with special needs. Check out each camp carefully. Visit the site and talk with previous clients if possible.

Here are some articles you may be interested in:

Additional resources found on LD OnLine include the following:

Here are a few other resources:

3) What rights do I have at work as an adult with learning disabilities?

Interpretation of federal, state, and local laws is complicated! If you have a critical concern, consult a qualified attorney or other expert for a definitive answer to your question.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. An individual with a disability is a person who:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • Has a record of such an impairment; or
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment.

You can get more in-depth information from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

You might also be interested in the following articles and books that provide information for adults with disabilities in the workplace:

4) I am confused about all the changes in special education law. Where can I find current information?

Special education law can be difficult to follow because it changes so often. New research, new national goals and new politicians elicit new adjustments.

Here are some resources to help you become familiar with current national trends and the requirements of new laws that govern special education in our nation.

5) What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a language-based disability derived from differences in brain structure and brain function. Although dyslexia presents itself somewhat differently in each person, it has some common characteristics that can be determined through evaluation. You may find the following articles to be helpful:

For more information, browse Reading Rockets or contact the International Dyslexia Association.

6) Are there certain colleges that accommodate students with LD or ADHD?

There are many options available to individuals with learning disabilities who are interested in attending college. Most colleges and universities have some type of services available to students with learning disabilities. Some colleges, moreover, have made it their sole mission to educate individuals with learning disabilities. These colleges include Landmark College (VT), Beacon College (FL), and Mitchell College (CT).

In addition, there are many colleges that not only accept students with learning disabilities, but have programs within their colleges specifically for students with learning disabilities. Many of the programs have separate admissions procedures and qualifications for entrance as well as structured support systems.

The following articles have information about planning for college:

The University of Virginia's Curry School of Education hosts a very helpful website with information on post-secondary schools accommodating special needs students. It lists some colleges and universities as well as relevant articles. After checking out the other pages, go to the Instant Access Treasure Chest for even more resources.

Collegeboard.com is a site for those seeking colleges that match their needs and desires. Go to College Search, and fill out the survey, marking that learning disabilities services are needed.

You may also find the following books helpful:

Finally, you may wish to contact the agencies below. Their sole mission is to provide information to students with disabilities and their families on obtaining a post secondary education:

7) What is the difference between a person with LD and a slow learner?

According to government regulations, students with learning disabilities have “disorders in one or more basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations.”

However, it is often difficult, based on observed behaviors, to distinguish between slow learners and learning disabled persons. Basically, a student with LD has deficits in one or two areas while performing at or above the average in other areas. The child's potential or overall intelligence is greater than his/her poor achievement would predict. This is called the ability-achievement discrepancy. It is even possible for someone to have characteristics of both conditions.

Actual diagnosis of a learning disability can only be done by a trained professional – clinical psychologists, educational psychologists, some physicians, etc. There are a number of articles that give parents and teachers a better idea of what goes into making such a diagnosis. A few of the articles list typical signs of a possible learning disability; others list strategies that work well with LD students.

The last reference raises serious questions about whether an ability-achievement discrepancy is a valid definition of reading disability. Well-replicated research has demonstrated that a core deficit for reading disabled individuals – both children and adults – is phonemic awareness (the ability to understand how sounds and sound patterns work in our language system). Although it's a difficult read, this article has some good citations and research within it.

Also check these sections of our site for general information about learning disabilities and teaching strategies that can help:

8) What are some strategies I can use to help develop a child's working memory?

There are several activities you can do to lift the memory performance of a child. Researchers have found that using mnemonic devices can help students improve their memory skills. Below are some suggested resources:

Other articles suggest games to play that will encourage your child to use his/her memory to remember everyday occurrences.

Lastly, it may be beneficial to find a support group in your area to see what works for others. There are several publications, organizations, and support groups that exist to help individuals, teachers, and families to understand and cope with learning disabilities – see LD OnLine's resource list to get started.

9) How do I set up an IEP for my child with ADHD?

All parents should start in the school's front office. Ask to speak with an administrator and bring any type of documentation and work samples you may have. In order for an individual to receive any type of accommodations, the individual must provide documentation of a specific disability. For a valid and accurate diagnosis, an individual needs a full psycho-educational evaluation through a licensed or otherwise qualified professional. Ask the school for this type of screening/evaluation.

Note: A diagnosis of ADHD is not enough to qualify a child as learning disabled. In cases where students receive services for an ADHD diagnosis, either through an IEP or a 504 Plan, the coding is usually Other Health Impaired (OHI). The following articles from LD OnLine relate to diagnosis of ADHD and might be useful to you.

Finally, you may wish to contact any of the following organizations who specialize in advocacy and legal rights of parents:

10) I think my child may have a learning disability but I'm not sure how to describe to the school exactly what I want assessed. What should I do?

If it is hard to verbally state why you have concerns, bring your child's work samples with you to the school to show what is hard to articulate. A full psycho-educational assessment should give you the answers that you seek.

Before going elsewhere, you might want to find out exactly what services the school system could offer you – and when they could provide them. If the timeframe or suggestions for providing needed services is unacceptable to you, there are independent educational testers that you can go to privately. The following articles will give you an idea of what to expect from the testing process:

There are several national organizations that can help you through this process and provide referrals to local professionals. You can contact the International Dyslexia Association or the Learning Disabilities Association. In addition, you can look in your local phone book for “educational testing” or “psycho-educational testing” for someone close to you. LD Online has a Yellow Pages service that might be helpful. There are also educational consultants and educational advocates that can help you through the process locally.

Be a good consumer in this process. Ask potential testers, tutors, and consultants about their experiences and specialization before you choose a provider. You want to make sure that the person you choose will be a good match for your child.

11) I suspect my child might have dyslexia. What should I do?

It is important to address reading problems early so you can begin getting your child the appropriate help. The following articles describe characteristics common to students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. You may find it helpful to read these articles to determine if you see similar characteristics in your child:

If, after reading these articles, you still suspect your child is showing signs of having a learning disability, it is within your rights as a parent to request a free educational evaluation through your public school. Whether or not he is found eligible for special services, the evaluation will help determine your child's academic strengths and weaknesses and how best he learns. The following articles describe the steps involved in the evaluation process, including your rights as a parent:

After the evaluation process is completed, you can use the information from the evaluation to help you make a decision about the next step in your child's educational path.

12) If my child is found to have a learning disability, what are the school's responsibilities?

The whole process of eligibility for special education services can be confusing but it is important for you to inform yourself about your child’s rights and the obligations of the school system.

In order to be found eligible for special education services under the label of specific learning disability, a student must meet two requirements. The first requirement is that she must demonstrate a processing deficit. The presence of a processing deficit is determined through testing during the educational evaluation. The second requirement is that a student must exhibit a discrepancy between her ability and achievement. During the evaluation, her ability level (also called her "potential to learn") will be determined, as will her level of academic achievement. Students without learning challenges have essentially evenly matched levels of ability and achievement. Children with learning disabilities are so affected by their processing deficits that they are not able to achieve to their abilities. Special education services are designed to close that gap between achievement and ability.

Even if a student does have a processing deficit, the discrepancy between her ability and achievement may not be great enough for her to qualify for special education services at the time. This most often happens with younger students because it is easier for students to compensate for processing deficits in the earlier grades. One thing that is important to remember is that even if your child was found ineligible for special education services one year, it is within your legal rights to request that she receive another educational evaluation, as long as it has been at least one calendar year from the previous evaluation. If she does have a processing deficit, it may be discovered through another round of testing that the gap between her ability and achievement increased enough to now qualify her for services.

If a student does not qualify for special education services under IDEA, it does not automatically disqualify her from receiving services under Section 504. The following article provides good explanations of the differences between the two types of legislation and the criteria a child must meet in order to qualify for a 504:

13) I feel as though my child's skills are regressing. What should I do?

It is alarming to feel that your child is no longer making progress and may even be losing skills, but it will benefit him if you recognize this early and intervene.

Speak with his teachers about your concerns and share any samples of his work that reflect these concerns. Together, you can decide which step should be taken next. If you and his teachers feel that the level and amount of services and accommodations your child is receiving need to be revisited, then an IEP meeting should be convened.

You may also consider asking that the concerns you have about your child’s academic progress be discussed at the school's next local screening meeting. At this meeting, you and the other members of the local screening committee will decide if further evaluation for your child is warranted.

At both meetings, it is important to discuss the possible reasons for your child's current struggles in helping to determine the next course of action. For example, perhaps your child was able to compensate for his disability before, but now that he is getting older and the schoolwork is getting more challenging, his ability to compensate is being strained and the achievement gap between your child and his peers is widening. His apparent regression may also be signs of stress from knowing that he is falling further behind. It is imperative that the emotional component of your child's educational experience be addressed.

The following articles may give you some ideas of ways to make the most of these meetings and include information about your rights as a parent throughout the special education process:

You and your child's teachers should be able to work together to develop an educational program that will meet his needs and help him reach his academic potential.

14) My child's school says that my child is very bright, but they want to hold him back because of his poor reading skills. I want him tested for a reading disability. What should I do?

Because your child is so bright and is still struggling with reading, he may very well be exhibiting some of the characteristics typical of students with a learning disability. It may be helpful to look at the following articles, which describe characteristics that some children with learning disabilities exhibit:

If you see characteristics of your child's reading struggles in these articles, you should state these specific concerns to the professionals at his school and request that your child receive an educational evaluation. This evaluation is free and within your legal rights as a parent to request. This article will give you an overview of the evaluation process:

The following article will give you suggestions on how to be the most effective and informed advocate that you can for addressing your child's educational needs:

Whether or not he is found eligible for special services, the evaluation, among other things, will help determine your child's academic strengths and weaknesses and how best he learns. This should make the decision about how to help your child in subsequent years seem clearer.

Because your child is bright, he may be able to compensate, at this point, for any learning difficulties that he might have. But as he gets older and the reading material in school gets more challenging, your child may find it increasingly difficult to compensate and he may fall further behind. This is why the earlier the cause of his reading weaknesses is determined and addressed, the better chance your child has of truly reaching his academic potential.

15) My daughter has LD but doesn't qualify for special education services. Although she has earned all passing grades, the school wants her to repeat her current grade because she failed the state's standardized tests. Isn't that discriminatory?

You may want to consult LD OnLine's In Depth section on legal issues as well as the following sites for guidance on your daughter's legal rights:

You might also find it helpful to contact relevant state and local agencies from the site below. They will be able to answer questions about the specific tests that your daughter took and how it impacts her and her educational future:

Since your daughter has been identified with a learning disability but does not qualify for special education services, she sounds like she might be a good candidate for a 504 Plan. If you haven't done so already, you may want to ask your daughter's school to evaluate her to determine if she qualifies for services and accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, often referred to as a "504":

You should also consider requesting that your daughter receive another educational evaluation if her last evaluation was conducted more than one year ago. As students get older, the gap between their ability and achievement can widen, allowing them to qualify for special education services when they may not have before.

The following articles may give you some ideas of ways you can best advocate for your daughter's academic needs:

16) I don't feel like my child has received the kind of help that she needs in the public school, so I've put her in private school. How can I get the public school to pay for it?

Public schools will only pay for private placement if they feel they cannot meet a child's educational needs in the public system. At this point, it would be beneficial for you to arrange to meet with one of the heads of the special education department in your school district to discuss your concerns.

Review your child's educational evaluation at this meeting, with particular attention to the discrepancy between her ability and her academic achievement in the public school. Share your concerns about your child's placement and the level of services that the public school thinks is appropriate to provide her. The following articles may give you some ideas of ways that you can make the most of this meeting:

The following article provides a good summary of the special education process and describes actions that can be taken when there is disagreement between the parent and the school:

One aspect of the laws governing special education is that all children are entitled to a free, appropriate public education (also known as FAPE). The key is for you and the school district to come to an understanding about what FAPE means for your child. What can sometimes be frustrating for parents is that a free, appropriate public education must also be balanced with the least restrictive environment (LRE). This means that there needs to be the right balance between providing your daughter with the educational services, supports, and accommodations she requires to reach her academic potential and giving her access to the general education setting as much as possible.

Intuitively, it would seem that it would benefit almost all children to be in a self-contained, center-based, or other, more restrictive environment, particularly because of the low teacher to student ratio. But there are many factors to consider when determining appropriate placement. The questions of FAPE and LRE as they relate specifically to your child should be addressed.

You may wish to request that the head of the special education department also arranges to meet with you and the other members of the IEP team in order to create a new IEP that will address your child's needs in a way that is satisfactory to both you and the school. As the parent, you have the final say in all aspects of your child's education. The school cannot implement any IEP that you do not agree to and sign.

17) How do I get a 504 Plan for my child?

As a parent, it is within your rights to request a 504 evaluation for your child. This evaluation is free and will be conducted at the public school that he attends. If he is home-schooled or goes to a private school, then you should request the evaluation from the public school that he would otherwise attend.

These articles provide information about 504 plans:

18) What should I do if a child has an IEP but is not making any progress?

Because you feel that your child is not making progress, it is important to request an IEP meeting as soon as possible. At this meeting, there should be a detailed discussion about the type of assistance your child is receiving and for how long each day. You should also ask her teachers if your child is making progress toward meeting her IEP goals and objectives. Request documentation, such as your child's work samples and assessments, to support their claim.

You and the rest of the IEP team may need to rewrite your child's IEP in order to ensure that she is receiving the type and amount of services, accommodations, and modifications she requires to reach her academic potential. Consider bringing a friend or family member with you to the meeting to offer moral support, to be a second set of ears to keep up with all of the information shared during the meeting, and to help keep you focused on what you want to achieve during the meeting. The following articles may give you some other ideas of how you can make the most of this meeting:

Your child's IEP is a legal document that her school must follow. If you do not feel that her IEP is being met or that you and the school can agree on an IEP for your child, then there are steps you can take. The next article outlines what can happen if there is disagreement about the IEP:

You can also contact the Parent Advocacy Resource Center in your state. They may be able to provide you with information, suggestions, and guidance specific to your child's needs.

Parents can be the strongest and most knowledgeable advocates for their children, so trust your instincts and don't give up until your child receives the type of education that she needs and to which she is entitled!

19) Can you recommend any books that are at a lower reading level but would still appeal to older students?

It can be difficult to find books that have high interest and are also written at a level so that children with reading challenges can enjoy them. A good starting point would be to talk to the special education teachers, reading specialist, and librarian at your child's school. In addition to recommended books, you may also want to ask for suggestions of children's magazines. Magazines tend to have appeal for all students and have many advantages for struggling readers because of their interesting and current topics, large number of graphics, short articles, and "adult" look. Also consider asking the librarian for suggestions of books of poems. There are some hilarious contemporary poets out there whose poems have mass kid appeal. And because poems, like magazine articles, are short, they are instantly gratifying and provide an immediate sense of accomplishment for all readers.

The following articles provide suggestions for ways to encourage reading, describe the benefits of reading aloud to children, and list book titles for reluctant readers:

This next set of articles provides information about choosing books, audio books, poetry, read aloud books, determining a child's reading level, and lists other recommended books:

20) Can you recommend schools for elementary, middle or high school students with special needs?

As a non-profit organization, we can not recommend particular schools. We can, however, give you some resources that may be helpful to you.

All public school systems in the United States serve children with special needs. Contact an educational administrator in your local school district for information. In addition to all public school systems, many private, independent schools are geared for students with special needs. Our LD OnLine Yellow Pages would be a good place to start looking. Programs are listed by state. And internet search on schools for learning disabilities will give a number of matches, including the following:

Talking with other parents is often a good way to find out about schools. Try the LD OnLine Forums where you can send and receive messages to others who may have similar concerns.

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