Learning Disabilities (page 3)
Learning disability is a general term that describes specific kinds of learning problems. A learning disability can cause a person to have trouble learning and using certain skills. The skills most often affected are: reading, writing, listening, speaking, reasoning, and doing math.
Almost 3 million children (ages 6 through 21) have some form of a learning disability and receive special education in school. In fact, over half of all children who receive special education have a learning disability (Twenty-fourth Annual Report to Congress, U.S. Department of Education, 2002). It's important, though, to realize that learning disabilities (LD) vary from person to person. One person with LD may not have the same kind of learning problems as another person with LD. One may have trouble with reading and writing. Another may have problems with understanding math. Still another person may have trouble in each of these areas, as well as with understanding what people are saying.
This A-Z Topics page is intended to connect you with more information about the disability. The resources we've listed here will lead you to groups with great authority on learning disabilities and and to what research is revealing about both the medical aspects of LD and effective education for the nearly 3 million students with LD. You'll also find research and practical advice on behavior management, and the latest thinking on appropriate procedures for diagnosing LD.
The list below isn't intended to be exhaustive of the resources available. It's intended to get you started on your search for information about LD.
Quick Intros to Learning Disabilities
- Want a quick overview?
Read NICHCY's 4-page fact sheet on LD.
- LD at a glance.
The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) is an excellent source of information. Read about LD in this fact sheet, how to tell if someone has a learning disability, what causes LD, how common they are, and what can be done.
- If you're new to LD...
...then the Learning Disabilities Association of America has written this intro for you.
- The ABCs of LD.
You'll find LD Online a rich source of info. Start here for a quick intro.
- Definitions and overviews.
SchwabLearning will give you LD fast facts, an overview, and definitions.
The diagnosis of learning disabilities is often a sticky issue. Of particular concern are the various methods used to test children suspected of having a learning disability and the differing eligibility criteria that states apply to decide whether or not a child qualifies for special education and related services. A lot rides on those decisions. Depending on the diagnostic process used, the resulting picture may vary as to the child's abilities and difficulties. And based upon the picture that emerges of the child, decisions are made about the education and special assistance that the child will receive (or not) and the resources that the state will commit to provide the child with special education (or not).
- What's the primary approach to diagnosing LD? An overview of the discrepancy approach.
Fletcher, J.M., Francis, D.J., Shaywitz, S.E., Lyon, G.R., Foorman, B.R., Stuebing, K.K., Shaywitz, B.A. (1998, Fall). Intelligent testing and the discrepancy model for children with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 13(4), 186-203.
This article isn't available online, but it's worthwhile pursuing at a library, resource room, or from the publisher itself. It reviews the historical basis and rationale for identifying children as learning disabled on the basis of a discrepancy between scores on measures of intelligence and achievement. In addition, to a historical perspective, recent studies that address the validity of classifications of children with learning disabilities (LD) according to the presence or absence of discrepancies between IQ and achievement are reviewed. Throughout this article, the role of IQ testing in the designation of children as learning disabled for research and public policy is addressed. The authors conclude that IQ tests have limited utility for the identification of children with LD. Alternative approaches to classification that incorporate the idea of a discrepancy between aptitude and achievement are discussed. (ERIC: Authors)
- What else is possible? Alternate approaches.
Torgesen, J.K., &Wagner, R.K. (1998, Fall). Alternative diagnostic approaches for specific developmental reading disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 13(4), 220-232.
Research on reading disabilities conducted within the last two decades provides evidence in support of new approaches to the diagnoses of reading disabilities in children and adults. This article summarizes recently acquired information about a specific set of linguistic-cognitive markers for reading disabilities, and it also describes efforts to develop measures of these markers in the areas of phonological awareness, rapid automatic naming, and verbal short-term memory. In addition, implications of this new information for the diagnosis of reading disabilities are considered. (ERIC: Authors)
- The official policy of the Educational Testing Service (ETS).
Office of Disability Policy, Educational Testing Service. (1999, June). Policy statement for documentation of a learning disability in adolescents and adults (Rev.). Princeton, NJ: Author. (Available online at: www.ets.org. Enter in the search box at the top right "documenting learning disabilities." The document should be among the top 10 search results.)
This document provides individuals, schools, professional diagnosticians, and service providers with a common understanding and knowledge base of those components of documentation that are necessary to validate a learning disability and the need for reasonable accommodations for candidates seeking to register with various Educational Testing Service testing programs.
- What the states use: The situation in 2003
Ahearn, E.M. (2003, August). Specific learning disability: Current approaches to identification and proposals for change. Alexandria, VA: Project FORUM. Available for purchase online at: http://www.nasdse.org/publications.cfm
The purpose of this report is to provide a succinct summary of the major issues in SLD identification and outline some proposals for change. Starting with a review of current requirements in federal law, the document goes on to discuss several SLD identification approaches and the way they have been used, current state practices in SLD identification, and alternative approaches that are being proposed by reseachers and stakeholder organizations. It ends with a discussion of the challenges to reaching consensus on any change in the identification procedure for specific learning disabilities.
- Where to go from here? Recommendations from the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). (2004). Keep kids learning: A new model to identify students with learning disabilities before they fail. Available online at: http://www.ncld.org/publications-a-more/parent-advocacy-guides
- And last but not least...the Center's that looking into it all.
The National Research Center on Learning Disabilities (NRCLD) has been funded by OSEP to address the complex issues surrounding the proper identification of students with learning disabilities who need special education services. Specifically, the Center is analyzing existing methods of identifying students with learning disabilities. It is also studying state and local policies to determine factors that explain the differences in the number and characteristics of students identified with learning disabilities from state to state, from district to district within a state, and even from school to school within a district. On NRCLD's Web site, you can access the results of these efforts, including:
- Reschly, D.J., Hosp, J.L., & Schmied, C.M. (2003, August). And miles to go...State SLD requirements and authoritative recommendations. Nashville, TN: National Research Center on Learning Disabilities. This paper focuses on the major events leading to the widespread rejection of the discrepancy criterion and an analysis of current state SLD requirements in relation to proposed changes in SLD classification criteria. Possibilities for and barriers to change are addressed in this analysis. Available online at: http://nrcld.org/html/research/states/index.html
- Responsiveness-to-intervention symposium. (2003, December). NRCLD hosted a two-day symposium focusing on responsiveness-to-intervention (RTI) issues. (RTI refers to individual, comprehensive student-centered assessment models that focus on applying a problem-solving framework to identify and address a student's difficulties. For an overview of RTI's core concepts, visit: http://nrcld.org/html/research/rti/concepts.html.) The speakers, discussants, and participants assembled represented the wide diversity of individuals with a vested interest in LD determination issues. Sessions were organized around critical questions ranging from "How should screening for secondary intervention occur?" to "What are alternative models to LD identification other than RTI?" To access the papers presented during the symposium, PowerPoint presentations used by the presenters, and video of the symposium sessions, when available, visit: http://www.nrcld.org/symposium2003
LD in More Detail
- While you're at NICHCY, might as well read our longer piece on reading and learning diabilities.
NICHCY offers a 16-pager on reading and learning disabilities that talks in greater depth about LD in children, what to do if you're an adult who suspects you might have a learning disabilities, and how parents can help their child with LD at home and in school. Find lists of reading materials for families, for adults, and for educators, and connect with LD organizations, government agencies, and literacy groups.
- LD Online takes a deeper look.
LD OnLine is the official Web site of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities. The link above leads you its "LD in Depth" page, where you can select the topic you want to go deeper into---adult issues, behavior, giftedness, the IEP, parenting...it's up to you. There's lots of detail here.
- Delve into the treasure chest at LDA.
LDA is the Learning Disabilities Association of America. From their home page (the link above), you can pick the type of information you need on LD. Are you a parent? teacher? A professional needing to understand the characteristics of LD and associated conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in order to provide effective services and assistance? An adult with LD? Pick your pleasure, and go straight to tailored info on LD.
- And find treasures at NCLD.
Resource Locator à http://www.ncld.org/resources1/resource-locator
Research Roundup à http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/research-roundup
For facts on specific learning disabilities (i.e., dyslexia, dysgraphia, etc), see the Language & Math section; for facts on Information Processing Disorders, Giftedness, Asperger's & Nonverbal LD, and AD/HD see Related Issues à http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics
- LDA also offers quick overviews of dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia.
At the home page of LDA (Learning Disabilities Association of America), the first paragraph states "Typical learning difficulties include dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia." Each "dys" is linked to a list of the signs and symptoms of that disorder and a quick list of strategies to use to offset its affects.
- And for the authoritative specialist on dyslexia...
The International Dyslexia Association's name speaks for itself.
National Organizations That Can Help
The organizations that offer the above publications are the same ones that offer a wide range of other information, assistance, and services. But, to make life a little easier, here's a quick, consolidated list in alphabetical order.
- Council for Learning Disabilities (CLD)
- Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD)
- International Dyslexia Association
- Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA)
- National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)
- National Center for Learning Disabilities
- Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic
- Schwab Learning
Find an LD Group in Your State
Several of the national groups listed above have chapters throughout the United States. You can often find out where your state chapter is located by visiting online. And, often, the state chapter can put you in touch with local chapters. We've provided the names and links below of organizations that offer this type of info, support, and connection.
- Council for Learning Disabilities (CLD)
Find your regional CLD chapter at:
- International Dyslexia Association
- Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA)
- National Center for Learning Disabilities http://www.ncld.org/resources1/resource-locator
- Summarizing LD research.
Lyon, R. (1997). Report on learning disabilities research. Adapted from testimony given by Dr. Reid Lyon before the Committe on Education and the Workforce in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 10, 1997. Available online at:
At the time of this testimony, Dr. Lyon was the Acting Chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch, at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), National Institutes of Health (NIH). His testimony begins with a summary of what we know about how children learn to read, including understanding how sounds are connected to print, how reading fluency develops, and how meaning is constructed from print, as well as other factors that influence learning to read. Next, an overview is provided on why so many children are having difficulty learning to read (deficits in phoneme awareness and developing the alphabetic principle, deficits in acquiring reading comprehension strategies and applying them to the reading of text, deficits in developing and maintaining the motivation to learn to read, limitations in effectively preparing teachers). The testimony also includes a summary of what we can do help children learn to read.
- What have we learned from the last two decades of LD research?
Two Decades of Research in Learning Disabilities: Reading Comprehension, Expressive Writing, Problem Solving, Self-Concept. Keys to Successful Learning: A National Summit on Research in Learning Disabilities. (1999). (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 430 365)
This document presents four brief papers that review and synthesize the research on intervention with students who have learning disabilities (LD). The papers are:
- "Can School-Based Interventions Enhance the Self-Concept of Students with Learning Disabilities?" (Batya Elbaum and Sharon Vaughn). This review finds that school-based interventions of either the skill development or skill enhancement types can lead to beneficial changes in students' self-perceptions and that middle school students appeared most responsive to such interventions. Executive summary available at: http://www.ncld.org/at-school/especially-for-teachers/effective-teaching-practices/can-school-based-interventions-enhance-the-self-concept-of-students-with-learning-disabilities-a-research-synthesis-executive-summary
- "Reading Comprehension Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities" (Russell Gersten and Scott Baker). Findings indicated the effectiveness of reading comprehension interventions, instruction in self-monitoring techniques, and peer-assisted learning strategies. Continuing difficulties with teaching students to generalize new skills were also found. Executive summary available at:
- "Teaching Expressive Writing to Students with Learning Disabilities" (Russell Gersten and Scott Baker). Found that instructional writing interventions lead to significant improvements in students' writing and that common features of successful instruction included explicit instruction in the phases of writing, teacher demonstration, and teacher and/or peer feedback. Executive summary available at:
- "Intervention Research for Adolescents with Learning Disabilities" (H. Lee Swanson). This paper reports on a meta-analysis of 58 interventions. It found that direct instruction and strategy instruction were the most effective techniques. (ERIC: DB) Executive summary available at:
- Instructionally, what works with students with LD? More from the National Summit on Research.
Improving Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities: The Results of Three Research Syntheses. Keys to Successful Learning: A National Summit on Research in Learning Disabilities. (1999). (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 430 367)
This booklet presents three brief papers that summarize three meta-analytic research syntheses of instruction for students with learning disabilities. The papers are:
- "Intervention Research for Students with Learning Disabilities" (H. Lee Swanson). Findings that resulted from a review of 272 studies are grouped into those on most effective forms of instruction; subject areas most affected by different instructional strategies; and other factors that influence achievement. Executive summary available at: http://www.ncld.org/at-school/especially-for-teachers/effective-teaching-practices/intervention-research-for-students-with-ld
- "The Effect of Instructional Grouping Format on the Reading Outcomes of Students with Disabilities" (Batya Elbaum, Sharon Vaughn, Marie Hughes, Sally Watson Moody, and Jeanne Shay Schumm). This analysis of 20 studies presents conclusions on results of students tutoring each other; effects of small group instruction; the outcomes of multiple grouping formats; and effects of length of time during which alternative formats are implementedExecutive summary available at:
- "Effective Instruction for Learning Disabled or At-Risk English-Language Learners?" (Russell Gersten, Scott Baker, Susan Unok Marks, and Sylvia B. Smith). Recommendations address components of an effective English-language development program, the value of adapted forms of the instructional approaches identified in the effective teaching research with this population, and effective ways to merge content area instruction with English-language development instruction. (ERIC: DB) Executive summary available at:
- Findings from 13 studies about expressive writing: A meta-analysis.
Baker, S., & Gersten, R. (2001, January). Teaching expressive writing to students with learning disabilities: A meta-analysis. Elementary School Journal, 101(3), 251-72. (An article by the same title, but a publication date of 1999, is available through the ERIC system, EDRS Reproduction Service No. ED 439 532, and online at: www.ericdigests.org/2000-4/writing.htm
The 2001 article: Presents analysis of 13 studies designed to teach students with learning disabilities to write better expository or narrative text. Notes the success of these interventions, and details three components for any comprehensive instructional program: instruction in writing process, critical dimensions of different writing genres, and structures for feedback. (ERIC: JPB)
The 1999 article: Summarizes research on effective instruction in writing for students with learning disabilities. It finds that three components stand out as methods that reliably and consistently lead to improved outcomes in teaching expressive writing to these students. These components are: (1) adhering to a basic framework of planning, writing, and revision; (2) explicitly teaching critical steps in the writing process; and (3) providing feedback guided by the information explicitly taught. The paper also notes two specific teaching methodologies that incorporate these three principles: first, Self-Regulated Strategy Development, which involves self-directed prompts, and second, Cognitive Strategy Instruction in Writing, which focuses on pre-writing strategies. Emerging issues in writing instruction are identified, including the mechanics versus the content of writing, dictation as a means of eliminating mechanical difficulties of expressive writing, and transfer of writing skills and related strategies to other subject-matter areas. (Contains 10 references.) (ERIC: DB)
- The Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR) model, the Strategic Instruction Model (SIM), and high school students..
Bremer, C.D., Clapper, A.T., & Kachgal, M.M. (2000). Never too late: Approaches to reading instruction for secondary students with disabilities. Research to Practice Brief: Improving Secondary Education and Transition Services through Research. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 466 913) (Available online at: www.ncset.org/publications/viewdesc.asp?id=274)
This research brief discusses two reading instruction models for teaching secondary school students with disabilities. The first, Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR), is designed specifically for students with learning disabilities and students who are at risk of reading failure. This strategy adapts reciprocal reading and incorporates cooperative learning. CSR utilizes four strategies: preview, click and clunk (students identify parts of a passage that are hard to understand, then using four "fix-up" strategies, get the gist and wrap up. Students are also taught to use the following cooperative group roles: leader, clunk expert, gist expert, announcer, and encourager. The second strategy, Strategic Instruction Model (SIM), consists of a package of components for use by students with learning disabilities, as well as instructional tools for use by teachers. The reading strategies portion of SIM includes: paraphrasing, self-questioning, visual imagery, and word identification. The Content Enhancement Routines in SIM help teachers manage and present the content of their classes in ways that help all students learn. A concept anchoring table is presented. The article closes with a description of other approaches and suggestions for selecting and implementing the appropriate model. (Contains 19 references.) (ERIC: CR)Editor's note: Find out in detail about the SIM, at: http://www.ku-crl.org/sim/index.html. You may also be interested in another Research to Practice Brief at NCSET, "Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR): Improving Secondary Students' Reading Comprehension Skills," by Christine D. Bremer, Sharon Vaughn, Ann T. Clapper, and Ae-Hwa Kim. Find it at: www.ncset.org/publications/viewdesc.asp?id=424.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Dissemination Center.
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