Last week, I shared the steps to take if you suspect your child has a problem with reading, writing, or spelling and they need more help than the school is currently giving them. If you haven’t read that article, click HERE to read that first. That guide will get you started.

Before I look at eligibility vs. ineligibility, let me answer a question that I know is brewing for you.

“If my child is dyslexic, won’t he/she automatically qualify for services?”

No, unfortunately, a diagnosis doesn’t guarantee eligibility. Another question I get is,

“Can my child qualify for special education services without a diagnosis?”

Yes, absolutely they can. It happens all the time.

What happens when a child is eligible for special education services? What happens when they deny classification? Let’s break that down, starting with the granting of special education services to a child.

Once the committee decides that a child is eligible for special education services, they must decide on classification. Under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), there are thirteen areas of classification. Most classification areas are not appropriate for a child with a language learning disability.

There are three areas of classification that the team may consider. Those areas are specific learning disability/learning disability (SLD/LD), other health impairment (OHI), or Speech-Language. Typically if a child has a speech-language disability, they already have special education services. So, that narrows the classification possibilities down to two LD or OHI. Let’s look at both:

A classification of SLD/LD means that your child struggles with the processes involved with the ability to read, spell, write, think, listen, or do math calculations. This classification seems to be the most logical one for a student with language-based learning weaknesses. However, a child doesn’t always qualify for this classification. The committee may also consider the category of other health impairment (OHI).

According to the IDEA, a classification of other health impairment is considered when a child has “limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment that is due to chronic or acute health problems and adversely affects the child’s educational performance.”

Some examples of health problems that could adversely affect a child’s educational performance can include: asthma, ADD or ADHD, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia. Nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette’s Syndrome. This list is not exhaustive.


Once the team decides on the classification (and remember – that team includes you) then the team will start developing goals for your child based on their areas of weakness. The team will also consider appropriate classroom accommodations for your child. An advocate can help you navigate this process. I highly recommend that you have an advocate with you at your eligibility meeting.

The goals, services, and accommodations are in place to meet your child’s unique needs. If the school district cannot provide the appropriate services, they must look outside the district for those services. Your child must have FAPE!

What is FAPE? FAPE means a free, APPROPRIATE public education. Every child in every school across our country is entitled to FAPE. FAPE gets tricky when the school district believes they are providing it, and the parents think otherwise. Data is essential for proving that FAPE is not happening. Evaluation and progress monitoring of annual goals are critical pieces of evidence in proving or disproving FAPE.

But what happens if the CSE finds that your child is NOT eligible for special education services and an IEP? What do you do?

I highly recommend that you request further testing. It’s possible that the initial testing didn’t test all areas of suspected disability. The school district MUST evaluate ALL areas of suspected disability. Again, an advocate can help you decide on what tests are needed to get more information.

Remember: you are responsible for signing the testing requests and return them to the school as soon as possible to get further evaluations underway. The request for special education services stays open until the tests are completed, and the committee can reconvene to review the new assessments.

What happens if the district won’t do more testing? That is when it is appropriate to request an IEE. An IEE is an independent educational evaluation. Every parent is eligible to request an IEE when they think the district’s evaluations are scant and lack depth. You disagree with the testing that the school performed. Your advocate can help you with the IEE letter and process.


To summarize, a child eligible for special education services will receive a classification of learning disabled or other health impaired. The CSE team begins to create goals and align services to meet your child’s unique needs.

If your child is not eligible for special education services, you can request more in school testing or request an IEE.

Do you have more questions about this process? Would you like something clarified? Please contact me at jenniferhoffman@wnydyslexiaspecialists.com . I’m here to help.


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