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Throughout his school years, my ninth-grader has been in resource and speech. On his last academic and psychological evaluation, which was done in the sixth grade, his IQ was a low average and his academic scores were average, therefore not qualifying him for special education or speech therapy. The schools cannot legally assist him academically, but it does not seem that this serves the best interest for my son. My son's problem areas are in processing, reading, and comprehension. He is able to memorize information and facts, but cannot apply the information to what he is reading or studying. Can you assist the school system in helping my son in any way? Private tutoring is available, but not financially affordable.
I know this is a frustrating experience for many parents. Many schools have adopted this "discrepancy formula" that requires a significant difference between I.Q. and academic scores before they will provide funding for services. To make matters worse, the testing that is done by school systems is often not comprehensive enough to pick up the kinds of difficulties your son is showing. There are two things you might consider doing to see if you can get support for your son:

1. Look at Attorney Lawrence M. Siegel's book, The Complete IEP Guide: How to Advocate for Your Special Ed Child. He has many suggestions for cutting through stumbling blocks like this.

You can also contact one of the learning disabilities parent advocacy groups and ask for their assistance. They may be able to refer you to an independent tester who has had success in giving students a more comprehensive evaluation that can pick up the weaknesses getting in your son's way in school. They may also refer you to an advocate who can walk you through the process of contesting the decision of the school district. These advocacy groups may also be able to direct you to free or low-cost tutoring services. Often these are provided by people in training (under supervision) and may be located at colleges, universities, or community service organizations. Call the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities at 1-888-GR8-MIND for more information about organizations in your community. You can also check out the Learning Disabilities Association of America at 1-888-300-6710 or the International Dyslexia Association at 1-800-ABCD123. provides information about learning disabilities and special education that would be helpful to you. While you're at it, your son might want to have a look at where he will have an opportunity to share with other students his age who are having similar difficulties.

2. You can ask your school guidance counselor about accommodations that could be granted under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These accommodations (e.g., using extended time on tests so he can use strategies like underlining key points or using pre-writing strategies to organize his thoughts before he writes) could be granted under this law. He would still have to be identified as having a disability under this act to get these accommodations, but he would not be granted special education services like speech. Sometimes, however, if special education providers do not have full caseloads, they will take students "at risk" and provide them with services.

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