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Expert Q&A

How can a family get funding for specialized services such as Orton-Gillingham Instruction for their child who needs it?


I have a 13-year-old son attending a failing school and he receives resource once a day and counseling once a week. Anthony’s IEP stated that his weakness is decoding – that is why he is struggling with 5.5 grade level in reading. His strength is math, which is 7.5 grade level. The school is not addressing Anthony’s learning disability with the correct tools necessary to help him improve. There has been no improvement in two years. He has been diagnosed as ADHD and is on 25mg of Ritalin a day.

My question is this – I am a single parent who can not afford to pay for tutoring services (like Orton Gillingham) which sound like they would fit Anthony’s needs. How do I get reimbursed by the Board of Education?

Thanks for your help.

Desperate in the Bronx
Bronx, NY

Dear Desperate,

Unfortunately, getting funding for private services like Orton Gillingham is difficult, though it is not impossible. Schools have an obligation to provide each child receiving special education with a “free appropriate public education.” The regulations define this to include specialized instruction, included, as needed, adaptation of the content, methodology and means of delivery of instruction.

In order to support the need for Orton or similar specialized methods, it is not enough to show that the preferred method is better than the method the school is using or that it would be helpful. Rather, it must be demonstrated that the method you are seeking is necessary for the child to make meaningful educational progress. Theoretically, the school must be able to demonstrate that its program is reasonably calculated to allow the child to make progress and is based on proven methods of instruction, but as a practical matter the burden often falls to the parent to prove that what the school is providing is insufficient. This requires review of grades, progress reports, achievement test scores, work samples and the like to show a lack of significant progress. In addition, it is often helpful, if not essential, to have information from an educational diagnostician or psychologist as to the reasons that the special methodology is needed.

Some schools have staff who are capable of providing these services in-house, but many do not. Therefore, many schools are reluctant to provide these services unless either a compelling case is made for why they are needed or they are ordered to do so by a due process hearing officer or a judge.

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