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According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 14% of public school students qualify for special education services pursuant to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Among those 6.7 million students, 19% have a speech or language impairment, 10% have autism and smaller percentages have other disabilities including intellectual disability or emotional disturbance. But the largest category – called “specific learning disability” – involves more than a third of all special education students. Some specific learning disabilities, as defined by the state edu- cation commissioner, include:

  • Dyslexia – “A condition affecting reading skills often characterized by difficulties in areas including (but not limited to) phonological processing, decoding, fluency, and/or spelling.”
  • Dysgraphia – “A condition impacting writing skills often characterized by difficulties in areas including (but not limited to) legibility and automaticity [ability to do things without conscious thought].”
  • Dyscalculia – “A condition impacting math skills often characterized by difficulties in areas including (but not limited to) working memory, spatial/quantity concepts impacting number sense, and symbol recognition/use.”

Schools’ ability to serve students with dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia has been getting increased attention in recent years in the form of guidance documents from the U.S. Department of Education and the State Education Department. And school districts have been experiencing more litigation on issues related to these learning disabilities.

This article answers frequently asked questions related to these learning disabilities and provides practical suggestions for school personnel.

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