Dr. Gindis, we adopted an 11 year old boy from Guatemala
last year. He was placed in 5th grade here, even though he had not attended
school past 1st grade in his homeland. I insisted on an LD evaluation
by the school district and much of the language component was done in
his native language. We also had a separate neuropsych eval. He was
determined to be of normal intelligence but, not surprisingly, quite
a bit below other children his age in terms of academic skills. Despite
his low test results, the school refuses to give him LD services, saying
that his low test scores result from "lack of educational opportunity;"
not from an innate cognitive barrier (e.g. developmental delay). So
he is simply thrown in with his now-6th grade peers, where it is hoped
he will learn by osmosis, I guess. Can they get away with this?
school district can get away with this situation based on their formal,
literal so to speak, reading of IDEA the major Federal
Law related to special education services in schools. Indeed, the IDEA
excludes "environment, cultural and economic disadvantage"
as causes of learning disabilities. The school may choose to define
the orphanage as disadvantaged environment that caused the child's delays.
Such argument would then continue that the child is not really disabled
(just lived in a less-than-optimum environment) and is, therefore, not
eligible for an LD classification. The school can then refuse special
This approach should not be allowed because it effectively
resumes the same educational deprivation and neglect your son experienced
in Guatemala when he did not advance beyond the 1st grade until the
age of 11. A lot of parents in similar situations would usually do the
Find an advocate or (much more expensive) lawyer practicing
special education law. Find an experienced with the
international adoption cases psychologist, who would be able to interpret
the previous assessments' findings to show that:
- Your son is not able to benefit from the mainstream
age-appropriate educational curriculum due to substantial mismatch
between his cognitive/academic readiness and the level of instruction.
Do not insist on the fact that English is not his native language
this is a weak argument from the legal prospective.
- Your son needs an intensive and extensive remediation
in school before his placement into age-appropriate mainstream in
order to avoid inevitable Cumulative Cognitive Deficit and resulting
emotional and behavioral issues on top of academic problems.
Your strategy should be to prove that the denial of the
most intensive remediation available at school to your son, in effect,
deprives your child of free and appropriate public education he is entitled
to; this violates the spirit of IDEA as well as your son's civil rights.
Prepare your case from clinical, educational and legal
prospective: have all evaluations, expert witness letters, published
articles, testimonies from other parents, etc. If the school still resists,
request an impartial hearing and come to the meeting well prepared with
a legal representative at your side. Make your school feel responsible
for the disaster they are going to create due to their incompetence
with the IA children, the desire to cut costs at the expense of a needy
child and for being in direct violation of the spirit of IDEA which
they must follow.
Boris Gindis, Ph.D.