Brief History • Foundation Phase (1800-1930) – basic scientific research related to the brain – damage to specific areas and corresponding losses. • Transition Phase (1930-1960) – application of brain research to children. Similarities between characteristic of children with learning problems and adults who have suffered brain injury • Integration Phase (1960-1974) – term LD was coined and emphasized perceptual skills
Learning Disabilities • Term coined in 1963 • Children who were having serious difficulties in learning to read, were hyperactive, or could not solve math problems. • Parents liked the term and formed the Association for Children with Learning Disabilities (now ACALD). • In 1975 LD was included as a special ed category in IDEA. • Largest category in special ed.
IDEA Definition of Learning Disabilities (LD) • A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language • May manifest itself in an imperfect ability to: • Listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do math • Does not include learning problem that is the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of MR, emotional disturbance, or environmental, cultural, economical disadvantage.
The NJCLD Definition of LD • A general term that refers to a group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or math abilities • Problems with self-regulatory behaviors, social perception, and social interaction may coexist but do not themselves constitute a learning disability • Although learning disabilities may occur with other handicapping conditions or with extrinsic influences they are not the result of those influences • Why has the concept of LD proven so difficult to define?
Why so difficult? • Different kinds of academic skills student are expected to learn • Wide-range of differences among learners • No large group of children are expected to learn at the same rate • Definition provides no info on how to teach a particular student • Better to spend time developing and delivering effective instruction than debating over a definition
Operationalizing the Definition Most states require three criteria be met to receive services: • Discrepancy between intelligence and achievement • An “unexpected” difference between general ability and achievement • Exclusion criterion • LD can occur with other disabilities but the learning problems must not be “primarily the result” of the other disability or other condition (e.g., low SES) • A need for special education services • The student shows specific and severe learning problems despite normal educational efforts
Identifying Students • Response to Intervention (RTI) –Process to determine learning disabilities based on the student’s response to scientific, research-based interventions. • Standardized Testing – Intelligence and achievement tests. • Associated with problems in listening, reasoning, memory, attention, selecting and focusing on relevant stimuli, and perception and processing of specific information.
Characteristics • Students with LD experience one or more of the following difficulties: • Reading problems -90% of all children identified • Deficits in written language -Perform lower across most written expression tasks • Underachievement in math -50% have math IEP goals • Poor social skills -75% have social skills deficits • Behavioral problems • Defining Characteristic • Specific and significant achievement deficits in the presence of adequate overall intelligence
Prevalence • LD is by far the largest of all special education categories • 51% of all children with disabilities receive services under the LD category • 5 out of every 100 students in the U.S. is diagnosed with LD • Males with LD outnumber females by 3-to-1 • The number of children identified is growing
Question • Do most students who are identified as learning disabled have a true disability? Or are they just poor achievers or victims of poor instruction?
Answer • Probably both • School defined phenomenon • The process of learning academic skills is not fundamentally different from learning other skills – so while LR as specific to certain skills, individuals may have difficulties in learning across a variety of settings and situations. • Difficulties in school will not magically disappear after graduation
Causes • In almost every case the cause is unknown • Brain damage or dysfunction (CNS) • In most cases there is no evidence of brain damage • Heredity • There is growing evidence that genetics may account for at least some family linkage with dyslexia • Biochemical imbalance • Flavorings/colors • Synthesize vitamins • Most professionals give little credence to biochemical imbalance as a cause • Environmental factors • Impoverished living conditions early in a child’s life and poor instruction probably contribute to achievement deficits • Many students’ learning problems can be remediated by direct, intensive, and systematic instruction
Problem • What is the problem of placing too much emphasis on theories linking LD to brain damage dysfunction?
Problem • Not all children with LD display clinical evidence of brain damage and not all children with LD have brain damage • Built-in excuse for ineffective instruction • Etiology will not alter the methods of teaching the student
Assessment Five forms of assessment are frequently used • Standardized tests • Used to measure achievement and IQ • Criterion-referenced tests • Student’s score compared to a mastery criterion to identify specific skills in need of instruction • Informal reading inventories • Used to determine student’s reading level • Curriculum-based measurement • Frequent assessment of a student’s progress in learning the objectives of the curriculum • Direct daily measurement • Observing and recording a child’s performance on a specific skill each day it is taught
Educational Approaches • Difficulty organizing information of their own • Limited background knowledge to many academic activities • Do not approach learning tasks in effective and efficient way
Educational Approaches Explicit/Direct instruction • Provide a sufficient range of examples to illustrate a concept • Provide models of proficient performance • Have students explain how and why they make decisions • Provide frequent, positive feedback for student performance • Provide adequate practice opportunities Content enhancements (organization, comprehension and retention) • Guided notes • Graphic organizers and visual displays • Mnemonics Learning strategies • Students use task-specific strategies to guide themselves successfully through a learning task or problem
Educational Placement Alternatives • Regular classroom • During the 99-00 school year, 45% of students with LD were educated in regular classrooms • Some school districts employ a collaborative teaching model to support the full inclusion of students with LD • Consultant teacher • Provides support to regular classroom teachers who work directly with students with learning disabilities • Resource room • A resource room is a specially staffed and equipped classroom where students with LD come for one or several periods during the school day to receive individualized instruction
Current Issues and Future Trends • The discussion and debate over what constitutes a true learning disability are likely to continue • Most professionals and advocates for students with LD do not support full inclusion • Students with LD possess positive attributes and interests that teachers should identify and try to strengthen
Eckert et al. (2002) • Purpose: Whether the effectiveness of an antecedent intervention could be enhanced by combining with either of two consequences – reinforcement and feedback. • Participants: 6 elementary school students. Experienced reading difficulties. • Dependent measure: Number of words read correctly per minute
Eckert et al. (2002) • Independent Variables • Antecedent intervention – Listening passage preview and repeated readings • AI and Contingent reinforcement – Preferred item delivered contingent upon accuracy (improvement) • AI and Performance feedback – Setting goals, information about performance, and graphing • Results • Combination of AI +CR or PF was more effective than AI alone.