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Why your child did not qualify for support at school

Why Your Child Did Not Qualify for Support at School

Education momentsEvery business category has its own set of specialized words or lexicon that they use on a daily basis and which are familiar to anyone else working in the same business category.  What is your reaction to the following statement?

“The items are container loaded and shipped via the Empress to the LA harbor; piggy-backed after clearing customs and will be offloaded at the switching yard in approximately ten business days.  Freight is FOB California.”

If you understand it, then at some point in your career, you have dealt with importing items from another country and the shipping methods used to transport the items.  If you thought “what in the world is this saying?” after reading it, then you have successfully navigated your adult life without intersecting with the distribution business category.

You may well go the entirety of your life and never have a need to understand the definition of ‘piggy-back’ as it is used above. Or, next month you may start a new business that sells artwork from around the world, and will shortly learn what the word means, after your artwork from Brazil does not arrive on time for your grand opening.  The first few interactions and phone calls will be extremely frustrating, but as you make more contact with an international distributor, you will become familiar with their specialized words and will use them as easily as they do.

The same thing happens in school systems.

The first year you work in a school system you head swims with all the abbreviations: IEPs, GLEs, GED, ILP, RTI, etc, and you begin to think you will never understand what the special education director is talking about at your meetings.  Then slowly it begins to make sense and a year later you are throwing off sentences like: The NOA for the IEP didn’t include an LEA so it was rejected.  You and your fellow teacher know what you mean, but most non-education based adults will not.

Again, you may well go the entirety of your life and never have a need to understand the definition of ‘NOA’, ‘IEP’ or ‘LEA’.  Or next week, your daughter’s classroom teacher could call you with concerns that Beth is not progressing like the other students and she wants you to attend a meeting where Beth’s progress in school will be discussed.  Suddenly, knowing what ‘LEA’, ‘NOA’ and ‘IEP’ will become extremely important to you.

First, you will attend a meeting with several specialists, where Beth’s educational progress is discussed and you will be asked to agree to testing for educational purposes to see if an underlying cause is preventing her from learning as well as the other students.  On your piece of paper summarizing the meeting, it will say that the school Psychologist will be giving your daughter an IQ test called the WJ-III, the Special Education teacher will be giving her the WIAT test and the Speech Language Pathologist will be giving her  the CELF-4 and the LPT-3.

You are to take Beth to an Audiologist to get her hearing checked and an Optometrist for an eye examination. You have just had your initiation into special education services and the testing that accompanies qualifying for help.

After testing is completed, you attend a second meeting where the test results are discussed. Prior to the meeting, the school will have mailed you a NOM – notice of meeting, which lists the time, date, location and persons attending the meeting.

At the second meeting, the following presentations are made to you:

Usually the Psychologist leads the meeting and will give you a handout summarizing all of the testing.  The Psychologist gave the IQ (Intelligence Quotient) Woodcock Johnson III Test of Cognitive Ability (WJ-III).  The ‘III’ indicates this is the third edition of the test.  The Psychologist reviews the WJ-III summary.

Beth’s IQ scores on the handout were:

Non-Verbal Domain Verbal Domain
Knowledge 8 Knowledge 8
Fluid Reasoning 14 Fluid Reasoning 10
Quantitative Reasoning 12 Quantitative Reasoning 10
Visual-Spatial Reasoning 10 Visual-Spatial Reasoning 8
Working Memory 15 Working Memory 12
IQ Scores
Knowledge 89 Non-Verbal IQ 112
Fluid Reasoning 112
Quantitative Reasoning 105 Verbal IQ 97
Visual-Spatial Reasoning 94
Working Memory 120 Full Scale IQ 104

Since you desire that your child qualify for services, the most important information for you to grasp is that her non-verbal IQ is 112, her verbal IQ is 97 and her Full Scale IQ were 104.  When discussing the test results in the handout, Beth’s scores on other tests have to be 1 ½ standard deviations or 22 points lower than her IQ score.

This is called the “Discrepancy Model”. Some schools will only use the full scale score for the discrepancy, so 104 – 22 = 82.  If they are willing to use the non-verbal IQ score, it will be 112 – 22 = 90.  You always want the higher number used for the discrepancy, in this case 90, because it makes it easier for your child to qualify for help.

Next, the Special Education teacher goes over the test results of the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT), which covered all the areas of academics.

Beth’s WIAT scores on the handout were:

WIAT Subtest Standard Score Percentile Rank
Oral Expression 118 88
Written Expression 105 63
Listening Comprehension 98 45
Reading Fluency Skills 110 75
Basic Reading Skill 108 70
Reading Comprehension 99 47
Mathematics Reasoning 95 37
Mathematics Calculation 112 79

Using your discrepancy score of 90, then Mathematics Reasoning (95), Listening Comprehension (98) and Reading Comprehension (99) were all close to the cut-off of 90.  As a parent, you want to note that your child may need more support in these areas, but she did not qualify for help based on the Discrepancy Model, because none of the numbers are 22 points less than her non-verbal IQ of 112.

When reviewing the percentile rank column, you need to keep in mind that the percentages were based on the idea of lining up 100 students.  The number 45 indicated that your daughter scored better than 45 of the 100 students in the row. It was not based on the 100% means an A+ and 63% equals a D.

And finally, the Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) discusses the results from the CELF-4 (Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals Fourth Edition) and the LPT-3 (Language Processing Test Third Edition) tests.  In the area of language, the student must have two tests with the discrepancy score, in this case 90, in order to qualify for help.  Here were her results:

CELF-4 Scaled Subtest Scaled Score Percentile Rank
Core Language 99 47
Receptive Language 88 21
Expressive Language 110 75
Language Content 100 50
Language Memory 105 63
Working Memory 92 30
LPT-3 Subtest Scaled Score Percentile Rank
Associations 9 37
Categorizations 10 50
Similarities 7 16
Differences 6 9
Multiple Meanings 12 75
Attributes 4 2
Total Test 93 32


The CELF-4 had a subtest with a number low enough to qualify Beth (88), but the LPT-3 score of 93 was too high.  Based on the fact that two tests must have a score of 90 or lower, your child did not qualify for services. An NOA – Notice of Action will be written and mailed to you stating that she did not qualify for services so an IEP – Individual Education Plan that would have outlined supports for your daughter will not be developed.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. Your daughter’s strengths were strong enough that they hid her weaknesses.  When you add too many high scores together with low scores, the test score result goes up.
  2. The school has a policy of only administering two language tests and has a list of test from which the Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) has to choose.  The SLP could not a) pick a third test to give Beth based on school rules, or b) use a test that was not on that designated list.  This means, that even though the SLP was rather sure your daughter would have qualified with a Language Disorder if a test that focused on her weaknesses was administered to her, her hands were tied.}
  3. The SLP has a caseload of 75 students and even though her school lets her administer a third test if needed, she only had to give two and because she was so pressed for time she stopped with two tests.
  4. Your child has a learning disability that the school is not required to test.  Disabilities that can fall into that area include dyslexia*, Auditory Processing Disorder (APD or CAPD) and visual disabilities unrelated to visual acuity.  In those cases, an expert in those fields outside of the school system will need to diagnose the disability, and then you have to prove how the disability is affecting your child’s school work.
    1. *Dyslexia is recognized as a reason to consider a Specific Learning Disability (SLD), but it is the work they produce, not dyslexia itself, which qualifies the child

If a general statement were to be made as to why a student doesn’t qualify for services it would be that their educational strengths mask their weaknesses.  Educational diagnostic tests were created to be broad in nature in order to touch on as many areas as possible.  The CELF-4, for example has 13 subtests that could be given.

If your child is strong in 9 subtests and weak in 4, then the way the subtests are added together would mask their area of weakness.  For your child to get help, a test would need to be administered that would focus exclusively on their area of weakness.

Another situation may occur, which is sometimes even harder to deal with.  If your child had an IQ score of 89, then they would be considered to be a slow learner by standardized tests.  These children are frequently diligent with their homework, rarely miss a day of school and have no behavior problems.

By the discrepancy model, their score to qualify for services would be 89 – 22 or 67.  Rarely does a child with an IQ in the range of 80-89 score that low because they work so hard to learn that they keep their scores higher.

Would they benefit from support? Yes. Will they get that support? No. Are they going to get teased at school?   Possibly, it’s a situation where having one true friend will make a world of difference.

Sometimes you have to seek outside testing to support your argument that your child needs support.

Whomever you would choose — whether an Educational Specialist or a Speech Language Pathologist or a Psychologist, they should be willing to review all previous testing before performing testing of their own and be willing to provide references.

They should be able to describe to you where your child’s weaknesses are and how the test they will give them will probe that specific area of weakness. The person you interview should be familiar with how the school systems in your state, province, county or country operate in the area of special education.  If they are not familiar, then they are not the professional you want to further test your child.

One other option you have is to fight the system. It is true that the noisiest baby bird gets fed the most and more frequently.  If you take the school’s ruling as your final option, then you have become the ‘quiet’ baby bird and your child will not get fed the way that helps them the most.  If you choose to hire a lawyer or solicitor, make sure they have familiarity with helping families get the services they need from the schools.  Again, get references.

At this point, a statement does need to be made in support of school personnel. If school educators were provided with all the money and time they could ever want to support children, then situations where children do not qualify for services would rarely happen.

Unfortunately, the government limits the quantity of children that can be in special education and how many dollars or pounds sterling can be spent in that area.

With those restrictions in place, schools are forced to limit the number of children that qualify and can become quite stringent on following the rules.

If too many children qualify for special education services, the school systems can actually be penalized and lose funding for regular education.

I am an educator, and it seems to me to be an upside down world, when educators can get penalized from helping too many children and companies and stockholders get bonuses when jobs are cut and employment which helps to support the education system is sent to another country.

If you absolutely get nowhere no matter what you try, make sure you find a hobby or activity outside of school for which the child can have success.  Sometimes, even after school activities that occur in the school building can be a great self-esteem booster because they make friends and have interactions that do not rely on their reading score.

All children have learning strengths, your goal as a parent is to help them find theirs.

I would also suggest that parents with a child in special education, or a child that is not fitting into the traditional school system read about multiple intelligences.

Bill Gates never finished college and I think we all would agree that he is doing okay as an adult because he found his strength and went with it, help your child find  his or hers!

Karen Wood, M.A., CCC-SLP

Speech Language Pathologist

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