What is a Learning Disability?
A learning disability is a neurological condition that interferes with an individual’s ability to store, process, or produce information.

Learning disabilities can affect one’s ability to read, write, speak, spell, compute math, reason and also affect an individual’s attention, memory, coordination, social skills and emotional maturity.

A learning disability is life-long and impacts most areas of life.

What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting both children and adults. It is described as a “persistent” or on-going pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that gets in the way of daily life or typical development. Individuals with ADHD may also have difficulties with maintaining attention, executive function (or the brain’s ability to begin an activity, organize itself and manage tasks) and working memory

There are three sub-types of ADHD:

  • Inattentive
  • Hyperactive-impulsive
  • Combined inattentive & hyperactive-impulsive
What do I do if I feel my child is struggling in school?
There may be a time when your child struggles in school. His/her struggles could be academically, socially, or emotionally based. If your child begins to show difficulties, the following should be considered: the area your child is having difficulty, the length of time your child has been struggling, if there is a particular subject area or topic being taught in which the child is struggling, and the time of year.

It is important to monitor these concerns. Often time will help; however, if the difficulties persist it is time to contact your child’s school. Start by reaching out to your child’s classroom teacher. Share your concerns and be specific with the information you provide. School may or may not be sharing the same concerns, but all concerns should be discussed. Next, talk about some possible tips and strategies for helping your child and implement these strategies at home. If your child’s struggles persist, communicate this with school and discuss the next step. Keeping an open line of communication is key to partnering in your child’s education

In addition to the classroom teacher, you can reach out to your child’s guidance counselor, school psychologist who is knowledgeable in learning styles and strategies, and finally, the building administrator. Keep in mind that the classroom teacher should always be your first line of defense since he/she works closely with your child every day.

Always be supportive of your child. Be attentive to their struggles and remember to celebrate successes, no matter how small.

What does the acronym RTI stand for and what does it mean?
RTI is an acronym for Response To Intervention(s). During the school year, your child’s school assesses everyone’s skills in the areas of reading, math and writing. Each school has a dedicated RTI team that reviews the assessments and identifies which students need academic instructional interventions.

Once these students have been identified, the schools help struggling students by using researched based interventions that have shown to be effective teaching tools. Teachers will monitor student progress using curriculum based measures or tools for measuring student competency.

The RTI process involves 3 levels or “Tiers”. In Tier 1, the classroom teacher monitors student progress to identify which students may need additional support. Many students respond successfully at Tier 1 support and achieve success; however, if a student is not making adequate progress, he/she will move to Tier 2.

In Tier 2, students will receive small group instruction in addition to the classroom instruction. Tier 2 interventions take place a few times a week usually during electives or enrichment activities such as music or art so your child won’t miss any core instruction in the classroom. During these extra help sessions, he’ll be taught in small groups using a different method than in Tier 1 since the first method wasn’t successful. The teacher may also ask you to work with your child at home on certain skills. The school will monitor your child’s progress so it’s clear whether the Tier 2 intervention is helping.

Finally, if a child is not making progress at Tier 2, Tier 3 will be initiated. Only a small percentage of students will require Tier 3 support. At this level, instruction is tailored to the child’s specific needs. He will receive instruction one-on-one or work in very small groups. If a child does not make adequate progress in Tier 3, he/ she will likely be recommended for an evaluation for special education services.

What does the acronym AIS stand for and what does it mean?
AIS is an acronym for Academic Intervention Services. This refers to services designed to help students achieve the learning standards in English language arts and mathematics (grades K-12) and social studies and science (grades 4-12).

The services are initiated in response to student needs. Students that have been identified as “at risk” of not meeting state standards, as well as those who scored below the designated performance levels on state assessments, are targeted.

AIS services include two components: additional instruction that supplements the general curriculum (regular classroom instruction); and/or student support services needed to address barriers to improve academic performance.

What steps do I take to get my child evaluated?
If a parent or guardian has concerns regarding his/her child’s ability to learn or make progress in school, he/she may request an educational evaluation. To request the evaluation, the parent/guardian will write a letter to the school principal. In the letter, clearly state that you are requesting an evaluation; include your child’s name, date of birth, grade, and his/her teacher’s name in the letter. Also include a brief description of the problems your child is having in school and strategies or interventions that have been implemented. Sign and date the letter and submit it to your building principal. Be sure to keep a copy of the letter. Several days after submitting the letter, it is a good idea to call the school to make sure they have received it. The school district must initiate a referral and promptly request parental consent to initiate the evaluation or offer the parent the opportunity to meet to discuss the request for the referral.

*It is important for the parent/guardian of the child to be in communication with the student’s teacher at all times, especially prior to requesting an evaluation. The school staff often has valuable insights into the child.

What happens once parental consent has been received for an educational evaluation?
Once parental consent has been received, an individual evaluation of the referred student shall be initiated by a Committee on Special Education (CSE). The initial individual evaluation must be completed within 60 school days of receipt of the consent. Once the evaluation is complete, the committee on special education and other qualified professionals will review the evaluation data and make a recommendation regarding eligibility determinations for special education programming. A copy of the evaluation results and recommendations will be provided to the parent and subsequently a CSE meeting will be scheduled. Parents are notified in writing of the date, time and location of said CSE meeting. Parents may invite individuals to attend the meeting with them who have knowledge of their child or of educational laws that determine eligibility for services.

At the CSE meeting, the committee will present the results of the educational evaluation, as well as make recommendations for programming. It will be determined at this time if the student qualifies as a student with an educational disability. Parents are strongly encouraged to participate in this meeting and give relevant information regarding their child’s needs.

If the student is determined to be ineligible for special education, the recommendation should indicate the reasons the student was found ineligible.

If the student is deemed eligible for special education services, the committee will develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that includes a disability classification, the child’s present levels of performance, and measurable annual goals among other things. The IEP will be implemented upon approval by the board of education.

What is an IEP?
IEP is an acronym for Individualized Education Program. An IEP is developed for every student that receives special education services. That’s the law. It is an important legal document that spells out your child’s learning needs, the services the school will provide, and how progress will be measured. The IEP can include classroom accommodations, as well as test modifications, and will identify special education and other support services the student will receive. An IEP identifies both a student’s strengths and areas of weaknesses and is a plan implemented to facilitate student success in school by providing specialized student support.
What is a 504 plan?
If your child does not qualify for an IEP, they may receive support under a 504 plan. A 504 plan is a legal document developed to protect individuals from discrimination based on a diagnosed disability. It is based on section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Much like an IEP, a 504 plan can help students with learning and attention issues learn and participate in the general education curriculum. A 504 plan outlines how a child’s specific needs are going to be met given classroom accommodations, modifications and other services. These measures are intended to help “remove barriers” to learning.

Section 504 defines “disability” in very broad terms. That’s why children who are not eligible for an IEP may qualify for a 504 plan. Section 504 defines a person with a disability as someone who:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that “substantially” limits one or more major life activity (such as reading or concentrating).
  • Has a record of the impairment.
  • Is regarded as having an impairment or significant difficulty that isn’t temporary.
What do I do if I feel my child’s IEP is not being implemented?
An IEP is a legal document that must be followed by all staff across school settings. By law, the school is required to allow all staff access to the IEP and to follow the accommodations and modifications outlined in the plan.

As a parent or guardian of a child with an IEP, it is important to familiarize yourself with the IEP and each of the sections. If you do not understand something on the IEP, ask for clarification. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or give input as to the information that is on the IEP.

If you or your child feels that the IEP is not being followed, contact the school directly. Start by reaching out to the student’s special education teacher. He/she are the individuals responsible for making sure the IEP is being implemented. Communicate your concerns with him/her and ask for feedback. It is a good idea to put these concerns in writing as well, so there is clear understanding of what you are communicating

Continue to monitor your child’s progress in school and be an active participant in your child’s education. If you feel your concerns are not being heard, talk to the building administrator. Finally, the director of special education can be contacted to address the concerns you are having.

If matters do not improve with dialogue and follow-up documentation, a parent can contact an educational consultant for information and support.

My child has a learning disability and needs help. Who do I contact for an appointment?
Dianne Pennings, Director of Children’s Services. She can be reached at 315-870-9464 or Dpennings@LDACNY.org
My adult child has learning/developmental disabilities and I need assistance. What are the next steps?
Contact Lisa Bianchi, Director of Adult Services. She can be reached at 315-870-9460 or Lbianchi@LDANCY.org. She can answer your questions regarding LDACNY, OPWDD funding, and how the two work together.
I am a college student and struggling. I think I may have a learning disability. What now?
We have multiple services in place to assist both diagnosed and undiagnosed college students. Speaking with your academic advisors, calling LDACNY, and exploring testing options are all next steps.
What kind of help can I expect to receive from LDACNY?
Our services are varied and individualized. We suggest you explore our website pages specific to the area that pertains to you and make a list of questions regarding services you are most interested in. Call to schedule an appointment and we will be more than happy to answer any questions regarding these services in detail.
What communities do you serve?
Onondaga, Cayuga, Cortland, Madison & Oswego counties
Is there a charge for LDACNY services?
It depends upon the service. Some are free if you meet eligibility requirements and others may have a fee.
If I call or email LDACNY how long will it take to hear back from someone?
Our clients are our top priority. We do our best to respond to initial inquiries within 2 business days. That being said, sometimes finding the answer to questions takes some time. Occasionally the correct person for the answer will be with other clients or away from the office.

Once you are an official LDACNY client, you’ll find our staff to be available to you frequently.

I want to support LDACNY! How?
Thank you for considering a donation! Your gift is of course tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. Please click here to learn about all the ways you can donate to LDACNY.
My company wants to get involved! What do we do next?
We have multiple ways for companies to participate both actively and through donations. We love working with passionate businesses looking to do good in the community. To set up a meeting or conference call to assess the best way for us to work together please contact our Marketing and Development manager, Amie Zwecker: azwecker@LDACNY.org, 315-870-9444.
I want to volunteer. What next?
Great! We always need more help…please click here to download our volunteer form!
I need credit hours for school or I am a teacher/youth group coordinator with a group of students. Can we help?
Absolutely! Please call 315-870-9444 to find out more!