Children, parents cope with learning disabilities

Shifting the ‘special education’ stereotypes so Blacks can succeed

Ashley Montgomery | 5/29/2014, 9 a.m.

One of the smartest investments that one can make is to invest in early childcare advancements. As the brain develops during childhood, research has shown early detection is critical in diagnosing and understanding learning, behavioral or emotional disabilities.

Learning disabilities can be a nightmare for many parents, many of whom do not realize that their child suffers from learning disabilities after receiving dozens of phone calls, and notices of suspensions their child receives from school. While educators are quick to label troubled students “a problem child,” parents should understand the importance of early detection to help their child and avoid any type of confusion.


Black students are three times more likely than all other racial groups combined to be labeled mentally retarded. They are also 2.3 times more likely to be labeled emotionally disturbed. Because education is a key component to successful careers, early detection of learning disabilities are extremely vital to the Miami-Dade County community because of

the required skills and education levels Blacks need to obtain jobs.

Blacks make up 15 percent of public school students ages six to 21, they represent nearly 33 percent of those in special education according to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Executive Director, Dr. Terry Vaccaro and Dr. Rosalia F. Gallo, instructional supervisor over the Division of Exceptional Learning in Miami-Dade County Public Schools weighed in on detecting behavioral, emotional and learning disabilities.

“Some of the most common learning disabilities within M-DCPS are reading disabilities,” Vacarro said. “Essentially what we are looking at is Dyslexia.”

Parents need to know that free evaluations and testing are done for every K-3 student. However, it is up to the parent to push their child to receive

the proper care and necessities to be successful citizens in the future. Testing and evaluations include screening and diagnostic assessments.

In the Black community, words like “crazy” or “slow” often times label a person who did not receive special education because of confusion caused by late detections or none at all. Without early detection of learning disablities, parents may place their child at risk of being misunderstood and unequipped to handle life’s challenges.

“Parents have the right to know when the students are at risk,” Vaccaro said.

He says that special education is a continuous service that no child should be left behind.

“Early detection is crucial,” Raquel Regalado, Miami-Dade County Public school board member said. “The parent has to take the first step.”

Regalado is the mother of an autistic daughter and says that she knows firsthand how important this is — “especially in minority communities.” Her daughter was diagnosed at 18 months old.


“We [minorities] have an issue with the term disability and that is culturally counterintuitive,” Regalado said. “We are scared of the diagnosis like a death sentence.”

Once diagnosed with a specific disability, a child receives civil rights protection by the U.S. government. She goes on to say that Blacks should not be scared of asking for help and finding the solution.

According to the Response to Intervention website, the dedication of M-DCPS is committed to providing educational excellence for all students and providing the highest quality education so that all of our students are empowered to lead productive and fulfilling lives as lifelong learners and responsible citizens.

“Absolutely they can go on to college or vocational schools once they get the right support to earn a standard diplomas,” Gallo said.

Once students with learning disabilities go on to receive higher education Gallo said they have to self-divulge that they have a disability.

Vaccaro says that he hasn’t seen students with disability utilize the resources that they have to go college.

“Miami Dade College and Broward Community College both have intimate programs that I have witnessed — there’s so much help offered.”