Problems may be subtle or difficult to document,
but if there are no academic problems at all, there is no educational
disability. [A problem with an important life function other than
academic performance might trigger an identification under Section 504
of P.L. 93-112 or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).]
Pay close attention to reports of problems that do not
cause low marks. For example, the teacher may already be providing an
informal program of special education.
This step follows next in a logical sequence, but
determination of any disorder(s) may not be clear until completion of
psychological, educational, speech and language, occupational therapy,
physical therapy, or other evaluations. There should be multiple
confirmations of any disorders.
It is not enough simply to specify deficient
achievement and a disorder. There needs to be a logical,
cause-and-effect relationship between the two.
See Mark 4:25. The Team must not allow a disorder to
depress estimates of both intelligence and achievement and then conclude
there is no discrepancy between the two. For example, verbal and
nonverbal learning disabilities, respectively, will depress verbal (Gc)
and visual, spatial (Gv) intelligence measures. For another example, a
disorder in quantitative knowledge (Gq) would depress the WISC
Arithmetic and Verbal IQ scores and DAS Sequential & Quantitative
and Nonverbal (fluid) Scale scores.
Remember that achievement may be assessed by means
other than test scores (1. B. Ė 1. F.). Maintain a bias in favor of
reality. Achievement tests must be chosen thoughtfully. For example, a
very brief achievement test is not a valid measure of academic
performance for a student with a short attention span, and an untimed,
silent reading test will not pick up problems with reading fluency. Do
not obsess over formulae. Some data will not fit formulae. The Team must
exercise reasoned, professional judgment.
Here is the crucial issue for identification under
Section 504 or the ADA. The needed accommodations or modifications
should be more than you would routinely ask of a teacher of moderate
skill, experience, and dedication for any student.
This is the crucial issue for identification of an educational
disability. If the student does not require a uniquely designed program
of special instruction, but meets the other criteria, the identification
should be under Section 504 rather than the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act.