What is the difference between a student who has a reading difficulty and a special education student?

Some students struggle with reading but do not have a diagnosed disability. These students may lag behind their peers and require more time with more specialized reading instruction and intervention to overcome their challenges with emergent literacy skills. Students identified with a reading difficulty depend on caring and insightful schools, teachers, and parents to provide them the reading help they need to become successful readers.

Some students are formally diagnosed with a learning disability. These students can receive special education under a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). To outline the educational goals and services that the student needs to be successful, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed. For students with a
learning disability who struggle with reading, reading-related support and services can be included in the student’s IEP.

When a student has a reading deficiency– whether he or she has been formally identified as having a disability or not – the key is to:

  • correctly determine the nature and source of a student’s difficulty,
  • provide targeted instruction to remediate difficulties and increase skill level,
  • and accommodate a student’s challenges and build upon his or her strengths.