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Identifying Learning Disabilities in Children

Summary of IDEA 2004 Changes in Determination of Specific Learning Disability

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Ability-Achievement Discrepancy
A state or school district must not require a severe discrepancy between meaasured intellectual abilities and achievement to determine eligibility for Specific Learning Disability. The regulations broaden the definition of severe discrepancy to "a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement, or both, relative to age, State-approved grade-level standards, or intellectual development, that is determined by the group to be relevant to the identification of SLD."

Response to Intervention (RTI)
Defined by the IDEA 2004 regulations as "a process which determines if a child responds to scientific, research-based intervention," RTI is quite new on the special education scene. Most schools have implemented scientific, research-based early reading interventions in their No Child Left Behind compliance. Math, however, along with interventions with older children, are not yet addressed by RTI. The presentation that the U.S. Department of Education is providing in communities specifically states that RTI is not intended to be the only factor in SLD determination.

Reading Fluency Skills
Reading fluency is added to the list of disabling conditions in the new IDEA regulations on Specific Learning Disability. The premise is that a lack of ability in reading fluency directly affects reading comprehension.

Limited English Proficiency
The accepted definition of Specific Learning Disability has changed over time, but it usually includes exceptions for learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. Now, limited English proficiency has been added to the list of factors to rule out as a cause of the child's learning problems in determining Specific Learning Disability.

Appropriate Instruction
The parent-school team now must consider whether the child has received appropriate instruction by qualified teachers in the regular classroom and whether the student's progress has been formally assessed at reasonable intervals. Apparently, the Statewide assessments implemented in No Child Left Behind are not considered adequate documentation of student progress; and schools will need guidance from their State departments of education to address this requirement.

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