Q: I’ve heard that evaluations for dyslexia or a related disorder must now occur as part of Full Individual Initial Evaluation (FIIE), is that true?
A: Yes, the Dyslexia Handbook sections on evaluation for dyslexia and dysgraphia, published by the State Board of Education, now require that anytime a school district suspects that a student has dyslexia or a related disorder and may need dyslexia intervention services, the school district must seek parental consent for a Full Individual Initial Evaluation (FIIE) in accordance with the IDEA.
A school district’s procedures for screening, individualized evaluation, and techniques for treating dyslexia and related disorders must be implemented according to the State Board of Education approved strategies, described in the “Dyslexia Handbook: Procedures Concerning Dyslexia and Related Disorders.” T.A.C. § 74.28(c). In the coming weeks, TEA’s Dyslexia Handbook will be updated, including an overhaul on how Texas evaluates students suspected of having dyslexia. Previously, school districts were permitted to evaluate for dyslexia either through the IDEA or Section 504, often conducted by a dyslexia interventionist or reading specialist. Under the new procedures, the evaluation of dyslexia and related disorders must now be conducted exclusively through the FIIE under the IDEA.
The updates to the Dyslexia Handbook will likely require school districts to make policy, procedure, and practice changes. Notably, when a student is suspected of having dyslexia and needing dyslexia intervention services, school districts must follow the procedures prescribed by IDEA, which require schools to obtain informed consent, provide prior written notice, issue the Notice of Procedural Safeguards, and complete the evaluation within 45-school days. This differs from a 504 evaluation which did not require prior written notice or specific timelines to complete the evaluation.
Other than the additional procedural component, application of the updates will require school districts to plan for and train appropriate evaluation personnel to conduct dyslexia evaluations. The IDEA requires that a group of “qualified professionals” collect data in connection with the determination of a child’s eligibility for special education and related services, to include a licensed specialist in school psychology, an educational diagnostician, or other appropriately certified or licensed practitioner with experience and training in the area of the disability. 19 T.A.C. § 89.1040. Furthermore, the regulations provide that a dyslexia and related disorder evaluation should only be conducted by individuals who are trained in valid, evidence-based assessments and who are trained to appropriately evaluate students for dyslexia and related disorders. T.A.C. § 74.28(d). The failure of a school district to update their procedures and practices to ensure that only the appropriate evaluation personnel conduct dyslexia evaluations could result in a determination that the district has not met its child find obligations under the IDEA.
Look to TEA’s website on Dyslexia and Related Disorders for release of the updates to the Dyslexia Handbook. For additional questions regarding evaluation requirements for students suspected of having dyslexia, contact your school district’s attorney.