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Dyslexia and Civil Rights

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Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

What happens when the state tells you that your child with dyslexia isn’t eligible for special help?


Amy Barstow* is perplexed. Her daughter has dyslexia, yet the girl receives no help at school for her literacy issues. The school told Barstow that South Carolina, where this story takes place, doesn’t consider dyslexia to be a handicap. As such, South Carolina schools are not required to hire specialized teachers to assist dyslexic children.


Amy hasn’t the means to hire a private tutor for her daughter. What recourse does she have for getting her daughter the help she needs?

Rights Fight

Fact: Amy is going to have to fight for her daughter’s rights. There is a federal law that treats this issue called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Amy may have a claim that her daughter’s rights have been violated under IDEA.

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Barstow should make a phone call to the Office of Civil Rights in her state capital and ask them to intervene. Perhaps someone in the office can phone the principal and read him/her the text of IDEA.

The text in question defines disability as: “. . . a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write,

spell, or do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.”

This federal law provides for “free and appropriate” special educational programs for all children with disabilities. While the scope and intensity of what constitutes special help for dyslexia may vary from state to state, no school within the U.S. is off the hook for providing help to children with dyslexia.

The school may claim that the girl’s dyslexia is too mild to have any negative impact on her academic success. That might be the school’s loophole for not providing the federally-mandated assistance. In this case, Barstow should have her daughter undergo an independent evaluation. Federal law gives her the right to pursue this avenue.

The independent evaluation should give Barstow the ammunition she needs to prod the school into giving her daughter the help she is entitled to by law.

“Good Enough”



Should the school system argue that the girl’s academic performance is “good enough,” because she is working at grade level, Barstow should argue that her daughter would attain a higher level of learning if only her dyslexia were appropriately addressed.

If all these efforts fail to persuade experts the girl is eligible for an individualized educational plan (IEP), she might still be eligible for help under the 504 plan. This plan is part of another federal law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and guarantees that the disabled not be treated with prejudice or excluded from federally-funded activities or programs because of disability.

Under 504, accommodations are to be offered to children with disabilities to enable them to keep up with their peers within the classroom. Section 504 defines disability as, “physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities,” and this definition certainly covers dyslexia.

While slugging it out with the school, Amy Barstow may want to consider enrolling her daughter in BrightStar Program™ a program offered free of charge for a limited period of time. Anyone aged 7 and up can take advantage of BrightStar Program, a unique technological solution to dyslexia. Better yet, Barstow should demand her daughter’s school offer BrightStar Program within its hallowed halls. BrightStar Program often succeeds where remedial reading programs fail.

*Not her real name

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One Response to Dyslexia and Civil Rights

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