Specific Learning Disabilities

Legal Help Getting the Assistance Your Child Needs

Specific learning disability is a category for special education eligibility in California. A specific learning disability (SLD) is defined as “. . . a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations. . .”

As defined by the California Department of Education, SLD includes conditions such as brain injury, dyslexia, perceptual disabilities, minimal brain dysfunction, and developmental aphasia. It does not include learning problems that primarily result from hearing, visual, or motor handicaps, intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbance, or economic, cultural, or environmental disadvantage.

What Are the Three Ways of Determining Specific Learning Disability?

Under state law, there are three ways for determining whether a student has a specific learning disability and qualifies for special education under this category:

  • Severe discrepancy: A severe discrepancy exists between the student’s intellectual ability and his or her achievements in oral expression, written expression, listening comprehension, basic reading skills, reading comprehension, and mathematics calculation or reasoning. All relevant material available on the student in taken into account in determining whether a severe discrepancy exists.
  • Response to Intervention (RTI): A student may have a specific learning disability if he or she does not achieve adequately to meet state-approved grade level standards for the student’s age in one or more specified areas, even when educators use processes based on the student’s response to research-based, scientific intervention.
  • Pattern of Strengths or Weaknesses: An SLD may be determined to exist if the student falls in achievement below state-approved grade-level standards for his or her age in one or more specified areas when provided with instruction and learning experiences appropriate for the student’s age or grade-level standards approved by the state, and the student exhibits a pattern of strengths or weaknesses in achievement, performance, or both, relative to age, grade-level standards, or intellectual development, that is determined, by using appropriate assessments, to be relevant to the identification of a specific learning disability.

What Procedures Does IDEA Include for Evaluating and Determining SLD?

Procedures for evaluating children and determining the existence of a specific learning disability are included in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Public agencies are required to draw on information from several sources, including:

  • Aptitude and achievement tests
  • Teacher recommendations
  • Parent input
  • Physical condition
  • Cultural or social background
  • Adaptive behavior

At least one member of the team determining eligibility, other than the child’s regular teacher, must observe the student’s academic performance in a regular classroom setting. For a child who is out of school or younger than school age, a team member must observe the child in an age-appropriate environment. In addition to other findings and information, documentation of the team’s determination of eligibility must include whether the child has a specific learning disability and the basis for that determination.

What Is the Process of Getting Treatment, Education, and Advocacy for SLD?

Under IDEA, all public schools are required to offer Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to students with disabilities, and to allow parents a say in the decisions the school makes for those students. Public schools are also required to evaluate students suspected of having disabilities at no cost to the parents.

Our Los Angeles Unified School District attorneys are well-versed in the requirements and process of qualifying for special education support.

At Woodsmall Law Group, we focus our practice exclusively on helping people with special needs and their families throughout Los Angeles, San Gabriel Valley, and La Cañada. If you believe your child has a specific learning disability, contact us at (626) 440-0028.