New York State recently amended the Education Law to direct the Commissioner of Education to issue guidance related to students with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia.  Section 305 of the Education Law now provides that school districts may use the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in “evaluations, eligibility determinations, or in developing an individualized education program (IEP).”  It should be noted that prior to this statutory amendment, there was no bar to the use of these terms by school districts in making special education determinations or including them in IEPs.

Dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia are diagnoses of specific learning disabilities.  It is generally accepted that dyslexia is a reading learning disability characterized by difficulties with decoding and fluency.  Dyscalculia is a math disorder wherein an individual struggles with basic math concepts and operations.  Dysgraphia is a writing disorder that causes an inability to write coherently, including difficulty with spelling, writing, and the physical mechanics of writing.

This change in the Education Law does not modify the thirteen special education classifications provided by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and listed under Section 200.1(zz) of the Commissioner’s Regulations.  Rather, students who require special education services due to dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia remain eligible for an IEP under the “learning disability” classification.  Accordingly, this amendment to the Education Law does not change the role of the Committee on Special Education (CSE) in determining whether students are eligible for a learning disability classification.  As always, the CSE should consider any relevant diagnoses when determining special education eligibility and developing IEPs.

This update in the Education Law mirrors guidance issued by the United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) in 2015 That guidance informed public school districts that they are permitted, but not required, to consider the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia when determining a student’s eligibility for special education and that they may include those terms in a student’s IEP.

The Commissioner is expected to release guidance for school districts related to this amendment to the Education Law within one year.  We believe that her guidance will be similar to that of OSERS, and we will keep you apprised of any new developments.