Facing the Challenge of Learning Disabilities
In a 1995 publication, Learning Disabilities - A Barrier to Literacy Instruction1, the International Reading Association (IRA) strongly expresses its concern over the growing number of "learning disabled" children in this country. The IRA notes that over half of the children who are labeled as handicapped are categorized as learning disabled, a figure that has doubled over the last ten years (p. 2).
How does one account for this dramatic increase in the number of learning disabled children? The IRA states that the definition of learning disabled has come to mean "a lack of progress in core academic subjects," and that "...millions of children are intentionally being labeled as 'learning disabled' in an attempt to gain some support for extra services" (p. 2)2.
The IRA goes further to identify Reading Recovery as a program that not only teaches children how to read but reduces the number of students who are labeled "learning disabled" and the number of students who are placed in remedial reading programs.
The view that Reading Recovery can reduce the number of children labeled as learning disabled is not a new one. Clay (1987) noted that:
Reading Recovery should clear out of the remedial education system those who don't learn to read for many event-produced reasons and those with "organically caused problems" but who can be taught to read and write independently despite this, leaving a small group of children still requiring specialist attention (p. 169)3.
Several studies have documented that Reading Recovery does in fact reduce the numbers of students referred for more specialized attention. Lyons (1994)4 reports that in Ohio the number of Reading Recovery program students (those who received a minimum of 60 lessons or whose programs were discontinued prior to receiving 60 lessons) referred for learning disabilities screening dropped from 1.26 percent to just 0.51 percent over the period 1988-1993.
Reprinted with the permission of the Reading Recovery Council of North America. © 2001-2008. All rights reserved. Reading Recovery Council of North America.
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