Special Education

Special Education

April 02, 2003 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

‘Invisible Dyslexics’

Needy minority students are less likely to be identified as having the reading disability dyslexia than other students, a recent study concludes.

Such students, absent critical reading intervention in their early years because of a missed diagnosis, may struggle their whole lives to read, the report says.

“The Invisible Dyslexics: How Public School Systems in Baltimore and Elsewhere Discriminate Against Poor Children in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Early Reading Difficulties,” is available from The Abell Foundation. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Because those students often fall below educators’ radar, the report, sponsored by the Abell Foundation in Baltimore, calls them “invisible dyslexics.” About 20 percent of students in large urban districts are likely to fit that category, says the report written by education consultant and former Baltimore school board member Kalman R. Hettleman.

With the right screening and early diagnosis, Mr. Hettleman estimates, the proportion would drop to 6 percent.

“Children who fall behind early rarely catch up,” he writes. “This invisible injustice can be overcome by concerted federal, state, and local action.”

Mr. Hettleman, in addition to doing a case study on the 95,000-student Baltimore city schools, analyzed research on early reading intervention. The problem, he concludes, is a nationwide crisis with the same causes. He calls for changes in how dyslexia is defined and diagnosed.

Under special education laws, children with reading difficulties are not entitled to special instruction unless there is a large discrepancy between their intelligence, as measured by IQ tests, and reading achievement. That discrepancy requirement has a “perverse impact,” the report says. High-IQ children with reading difficulties have bigger “discrepancies” than children with low IQs, and therefore receive early support.

The IQ test has long been accused of discriminating against poor and minority children who come from homes with less exposure to language and literature, the report notes.

Mr. Hettleman says that teachers’ lower expectations of minority students from low-income families sometimes exacerbate the problem.

The report recommends that districts screen for reading difficulties by kindergarten. Typically, it says, such children aren’t identified until age 9, after critical years are lost.

And the federal government should change the wording of the discrepancy requirement that impedes early diagnosis and intervention, the report argues.

—Lisa Fine Goldstein


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education L.A. Agrees to Do More After Failing on Special Education. Could Other Districts Be Next?
The district failed to meet the needs of students with disabilities during the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education found.
6 min read
Conceptual image of supporting students.
Illustration by Laura Baker/Education Week (Source images: DigitalVision Vectors and iStock/Getty)
Special Education Protect Students With Disabilities as COVID Rules Ease, Education Secretary Tells Schools
Even as schools drop precautions like mask requirements, they must by law protect medically vulnerable students, a letter emphasizes.
3 min read
Image of a student holding a mask and a backpack near the entrance of a classroom.
Special Education Hearing, Vision ... Autism? Proposal Would Add Screening to School-Entry Requirements
Nebraska legislators consider a first-in-the-nation mandate to assess all children for autism before the start of school.
5 min read
Image of a student working with an adult one-on-one.
Special Education Florida Changed Rules for Special Education Students. Why Many Say It’s Wrong
The new rule contains a more specific definition of what it means to have a “most significant cognitive disability.”
Jeffrey S. Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
7 min read
Richard Corcoran, the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education sits next to Florida Department of Education Board Chair Andy Tuck as they listen to speakers during Thursday morning's Florida Department of Education meeting. The board members of the Florida Department of Education met Thursday, June 10, 2021 at the Florida State College at Jacksonville's Advanced Technology Center in Jacksonville, Fla. to take care of routine business but then held public comments before a vote to remove critical race theory from Florida classrooms.
Richard Corcoran, Florida’s education commissioner, and Andy Tuck, the chair of the state’s board of education, listen to speakers at a meeting  in June.
Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union via AP