Boris Gindis, Ph.D. 
Article Title

Discrepancy Formula and Learning Disability Determination of Internationally Adopted Children

Posted Date

As you know, a new reauthorization of IDEA took place in October 2004 and became a State Law in all States on July 1, 2005. The law has moved away from using discrepancy models in identifying children with specific learning disabilities. The school is not required to determine if the child has a discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability to establish that the child has a specific learning disability and needs special education services.

The school may use response to intervention to determine if the child responds to scientific, research-based intervention as part of the evaluation process. (Section 1414(b)(6)). The law further states that information from the evaluations will be used to determine "the educational needs of the child" and "the present levels of academic achievement and related developmental needs of the child." (Section 1414(c)(1)).

Here is the exact citation from the law that you can bring to your school: "... a local educational agency shall not be required to take into consideration whether a child has a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability in oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skill, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation, or mathematical reasoning." (Section 1414(b)(6)).

In addition, the law states that "in determining whether a child has a specific learning disability, a local educational agency may use a process that determines if the child responds to scientific, research-based intervention" as a part of the required evaluation procedures (Section 1414(c)(1)). Let me tell you that even when "discrepancy formula" was in force, it was hardly applicable to our children.

The scientific research and clinical practice have long ago proved that neither low nor high IQ scores may be used to exclude a child from consideration as LD; and the absence of a numeric discrepancy alone cannot be used as criterion for excluding or including a child into special education program. Thus, the IQ scores depressed by a disorder in basic psychological processing (this is the case of many of our children), cannot be used in any ability-achievement comparisons, because the same disorder in basic psychological processing that caused low achievement had also depressed the IQ score. But, again, the whole concept of "discrepancy" is not relevant now. So, your arguments for Learning Disability determination (retention is a separate issue, that I am not discussing at the moment), should be based on the following basic premises:

    1. Neurological weakness that has relevancy to educational setting, such as: fatigue during cognitive efforts, nervous tension, decreased memory and attention span (needs to be presented in a professional psychological report and/or your letter).
    2. Deficiency of age-appropriate cognitive skills and processes and limited cognitive language, which result in poor response to instruction in a mainstream educational setting. This is your major argument and, again, it must be properly described and substantiated in a professional psychological report.
    3. Prolonged history of deprivation, neglect, substandard education, and institutionalization that have exacerbated the above diagnosis. In reality, this is the true cause of many LD conditions cognitively and language-wise, but be careful with this statement: the new issue of IDEA still keeps the famous "socio-economic" definition as the basis for denying LD classification. From experience, I know that a lot depends on how it is formulated - indeed, "the one who masters the language, rules the Universe" - as one ancient Greek philosopher wisely observed.
The bottom line is this: many of our children need proper educational classification, IEP, and supportive services or retention together with remediation (retention alone may not work). All children are entitled to an appropriate public education, which in the case of many internationally adopted children includes a system of intensive and extensive remediation. Any rejection of such remedial system for them constitutes, in fact, the continuation of the same educational deprivation and neglect that these children had been exposed to for so long in their native countries.
Dr. Boris Gindis is a child psychologist specializing in psycho-educational issues of older internationally adopted children. He is the chief psychologist at the Center for Cognitive-Developmental Assessment and Remediation, the lead instructor at Bgcenter Online School, the author of many publications on international adoption issues and frequent presenter at conferences and workshops.
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