Special needs students in the classroom

Federal Education Law Protects Gifted Students with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has recently issued guidance affirming that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) protects intellectually gifted students who have qualifying disabilities and need special education services.  This is good news for parents of children with high I.Q.s who nevertheless struggle with attention, social skills, writing, and/or basic reading skills such as decoding and reading fluency, among other problems.

Schools sometimes refuse to evaluate or deny services to children who have high I.Q.s, arguing that the school’s responsibility to such children is fulfilled because they have the ability to pass successfully from grade to grade without specialized services.  Not so, says OSEP in a letter dated January 13, 2010.  A child with “high cognition and ADHD could be considered to have an ‘other health impairment,’ and could need special education and related services to address the lack of organizational skills.”   A child with Asperger’s Syndrome could meet the disability category of autism and need special education in the areas of social skills and classroom behavior.

Regarding students with specific learning disabilities (SLD), OSEP referenced the introductory comments to the current federal special education regulations, noting that children with high I.Q.s may nevertheless have poor skills in certain achievement domains that are typical of children with SLD.  For example, a child with dyslexia will have weakness in phonological skills and/or fluency notwithstanding high intelligence and may be eligible for special education services under the category of SLD.

The letter also affirms what parents often argue — that it is appropriate to consider outside learning supports provided by the parents “to determine whether the child’s current academic achievement reflects the service augmentation, and not what the child’s achievement would be without such help.”  So, for example, if a parent provides private tutoring to her child, the IEP team should consider whether this tutoring is what accounts for the child’s progress, and if it does, consider continuing the tutoring services pursuant to an IEP provided by the District.

– Posted by Judith Saltzman

Posted in Blog, Special Education.