Being used for the past 40 years
LD is the most controversial and least understood special education category.
Perhaps 1000 people per day in the
LD by far the largest category of special education in terms of the number of children and amount of money involved.
Even the most literate scholar is likely to have difficulty explaining exactly what LD is (Hallahan, Kaufman, & Lloyd, 1985, p.2)
Probably we find the definition difficult because the idea of a LD is pretty straightforward but application of the concept to real people is extremely complex.
Also, difficulty in deciding which children have LD: The abstract formula is a neat gadget, but it doesn’t work very well in the real world of schools and children. (Hallahan, 1985)
Learning disability is easy to define as an abstraction. When we consider flesh and blood children, however, our abstract definition that seemed so adequate, or even elegant, on paper becomes a house of cards. The moment we try to apply our neatly written criteria to an actual child, our definition collapses around us, a casualty of the child’s living, breathing individuality,. Naturally, if we have difficulty deciding that any give child fits our definition, then we have little basis for stating how many children are LD. Our estimation of the prevalence of LD often is based on a statistical probability that , like our definition, is attractive in the abstract but unworkable in the practice (Hallahan et.al., 1985 pp. 292-293)
In the abstract, experts estimate that 1 -3% of the school –aged population (ages 6-17) has LD
In the real world of classroom of the late 1980s and early 1990s about 4.4% has been identified as LD in the
Federal definition of LD included in PL 94-142 and its subsequent amendments, reads
Specific learning disability means a disorder of one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do arithmetic calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain damage, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include children who have learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, of mental retardation, or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. (USOE, 1977, p. 42478).
Hammill et.all (1981) explained this interpretation is not accurate.
“Take for example a blind 14 year old child who lost spoken language as a consequence of a brain tumor. This would be a clear-cut case of a multiply handicapped LD child” (p. 338)
Relatively new are of study, service, and research, definition must be considered in an experimental, developmental stage.
Definition by National Join Council of Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) approved the following definition in 1981:
Learning disabilities is a generic term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, or mathematical abilities. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual and presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction. Even though a learning disability may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions (eg. Sensory impairment, mental retardation, social, and emotional disturbance), or environmental influences (eg. Cultural differences, insufficient/inappropriate instruction, psychogenic factors), it is not the direct result of those conditions or influences.
(Hammill, Leigh, McNutt, & Larsen, 1981. p. 336)
In January 1991 The NJCLD revised the definition
Learning disabilities is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual, presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction, and may occur across the life span. Problems in self-regulatory behaviors, social perception, and social interaction may exist with learning disabilities but do not by themselves constitute a learning disability. Although learning disabilities may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conations (for example, sensory impairment, mental retardation, serious emotional disturbance), or with extrinsic influences (such as cultural differences, insufficient or inappropriate instruction), they are not the result of those conditions or influences.
Learning Disabilities, traditionally has been defined by exclusion.
It is also extremely difficult to provide conclusive evidence that a LD is the direct result of brain injury, even if it is known that the brain has been damaged.
Safer to say that brain injury is a suspected etiological factor in many cases of learning disability.
It is not clear whether emotional disturbance is an etiological factor in or a consequence of a learning difficulty.
If a child is not learning, it might be concluded that the teacher has not found an effective way of teaching. (Carnine, 1982)
Many of the terms used to describe individuals who experience difficulty in learning-related endeavors reflect a given professional orientation or affiliation.
Samples of such terms:
Attentional Deficit Disorder Language Disordered
Atypical Child Learning Disabled
Brain Damaged Learning Disordered
Brain Injured Learning Impaired
Choreiform Child Minimal Brain Dysfunction
Developmental Aphasia Minimal Cerebral Dysfunction
Developmentally Imbalanced Organic Brain Syndrome
Driven Child Performance Deviation
Dyslexia Performance Disabled
Dyssychronous Child Performance Handicapped
Educationally Handicapped Problem Learner
Educationally Maladjusted Problem Reader
Hyperactive Behavior Disorder Psycholinguistic Disability
Hyperkinetic Child Psychoneurological Disorder
Interjacent Child Psychoneurological Learning
Invisibly Crippled Child Disabilities
Special Learning Disability
Specific Learning Disability
The real issues in labeling are:
“Labeled according to what criteria?”
“Labeled by whom?’ and
“Labeled for what purpose”
When labels are based on objective and relevant criteria, are applied by responsible professionals, and are used to communicate essential information about an individual, they can even be helpful to the individuals involved.
Various organization concerned with LD has also witnessed tremendous effort in encouraging research, information sharing, and enhancing the development of the field.
At the present time, professionals and nonprofessionals alike are tackling some major questions confronting the field. Some of these issues are listed below:
How services are best delivered to students with learning disabilities?
Which model of intervention [remedial, compensatory, vocational, functional skills, or learning strategy is mot appropriate for students with learning disabilities?
How should persons with learning disabilities be identified?
Are various intervention techniques and therapies (eg. Pharmacological, dietary, megavitamin) effective or warranted?
How do students with learning disabilities process information?
What impact and implication does the competency movement have on students with learning disabilities?
How should we prepare professionals to work with students who possess learning disabilities?
Suggestions for working with children with learning disabilities
Always remember the major purpose or objective of the child’s effort. It’s easy to lose sight of the relative unimportance of some of the things we expect from nonhandicapped children. For example, if the goal is to have the child write a composition, don’t be obsessive about neatness and spelling; rather focus on the expression and flow of ideas.
Be sure you don’t expect the child to perform beyond her capacity. A child cannot be expected to perform tasks just because she is intellectually bright. Some individuals have specific learning problems even though they are generally bright. Expect the child to try and make a little improvement in the area where you’re offering instruction.
Realize that working in the area of disability is frustrating. Remember that some things are very hard for you to do, and you probably have found successful ways of avoiding them. When you are pushed to do things you find very difficult (singing, swimming, reading, math, or whatever), you probably tend to become emotional about it rather quickly. It shouldn’t surprise you if the child responds in the same way.
Try another way. See if you can find a different method of teaching the skill, one that might be simpler or easier for the child. Or try to substitute a slightly different skill for the one that seems so difficult to learn. For example, if the child has great difficulty in writing things by hand, try letting her type or use a word processor.
Be sure the environment is conducive to learning and successful performance. Give clear instructions. Comment positively on the child’s efforts. Eliminate distractions by working a quiet, uncluttered place.