Exceptional Children
An Introduction to Special Education
Tenth Edition
William L. Heward
© 2013, 2009, 2006, 2003, 2000
Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
Chapter 5
Learning Disabilities
Focus Questions
Why
has the concept of learning disabilities proven so difficult
to define?
What
characteristic encompasses all students with learning
disabilities?
What
factors might account for the huge increase in the
prevalence of students identified with learning disabilities since
the category was officially recognized in the mid-1970s?
Are
the achievement deficits of most students diagnosed with
learning disabilities the result of neurological impairment or
poor instruction?
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Focus Questions (cont.)
What
can a student’s responsiveness to evidence-based
instruction reveal about the need and focus of special
education?
How
can academic tool skills and learning strategies relate to
each other?
What
skills are most important to the success of an
elementary-age student with learning disabilities in the general
education classroom? for a secondary student?
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IDEA Definition of Specific
Learning Disability (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
mathematical calculations
Includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities,
brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and
developmental aphasia
Does not include learning problems that are the
result of other disabilities or environmental, cultural,
or economic disadvantage
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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
• The
student’s difficulties are not the result of another
known condition that can cause learning problems
A need for special education services
• The
student shows specific and severe learning problems
despite standard educational efforts
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Responsiveness to Intervention
A local education agency may use a process that
determines if the child responds to scientific,
research-based intervention as a part of the
evaluation procedures.
The responsiveness to intervention approach shifts
the identification of learning disabilities from a
“wait-to-fail” model to one of early identification and
prevention.
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The NJCLD and the Definition of LD
The NJCLD believes the federal definition of LD
contains several weaknesses:
•
•
•
•
•
Exclusion of adults
• Learning disabilities can occur across the life span
Reference to “basic psychological processes”
• This is a curricular issue concerning how to teach and not
a definitional one
Inclusion of spelling as a learning disability
• Spelling can be subsumed under “written expression”
Inclusion of obsolete terms
• Includes terms that are difficult to define
Wording of the exclusion clause
• Suggests that learning disabilities cannot occur with other
disabilities
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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 mathematical abilities
These
disorders are intrinsic to the individual and presumed to
be due to central nervous system dysfunction and may appear
across the life span
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
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Characteristics
Students with LD experience one or more of the
following difficulties:
•
Reading problems - 80% of all children identified
•
Deficits in written language - Perform lower than their agematched peers without disabilities across most written
expression tasks
•
Underachievement in math – More than 50% have math IEP
goals
•
Poor social skills - 75% have social skills deficits
•
Attention deficits and hyperactivity
•
Behavioral problems-Higher than usual incidence of behavior
problems
•
Low rates of self-esteem/self-efficacy-lower levels of selfefficacy, mood, effort, and hope
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Characteristics
The Defining Characteristic
• Specific
and significant achievement deficits in the
presence of adequate overall intelligence
• The
performance gap becomes especially
noticeable and handicapping in the middle and
secondary grades
• The
difficulties experienced by children with
learning disabilities, especially for those who
cannot read at grade level, are substantial and
pervasive and usually last across the life span
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Prevalence
LD is by far the largest of all special education
categories
• 42.3%
of all school-age children with disabilities
receive services under the LD category and about
4% of the school-age population
• Males
with LD outnumber females by a ratio of 3:1
• The
rising incidence of children with LD led some
scholars to suggest it be considered an epidemic
• Some
contend that too many low achievers have
been improperly diagnosed as LD
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Causes
Brain damage or dysfunction
– In
most cases there is no evidence of brain damage
– Neuroimaging research has been reasonably consistent in revealing
functional and/or structural differences in the left temporal lobe of the
brain of individuals with dyslexia
– Educators should refrain from placing too much emphasis on theories
linking learning disabilities to brain damage or brain dysfunction
Heredity
– There
is growing evidence that genetics may account for at least
some family links with dyslexia
Biochemical imbalance
– Most
professionals give little credence to biochemical imbalance as a
significant cause of or treatment for learning disabilities
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Causes (cont.)
Environmental Factors
– Impoverished
living conditions early in a child’s life and
limited exposure to highly effective instruction probably
contribute to achievement deficits
– The
tendency for learning disabilities to run in families
suggests a correlation between environmental influences on
children’s early development and subsequent achievement in
school
– Many
students’ learning problems can be remediated by
direct, intensive, and systematic instruction
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Identification and Assessment
Standardized Intelligence and Achievement Tests
• Used
to measure the discrepancy between
achievement and general intellectual ability
Curriculum-Based Measurement
• Used
to measure the growth of student’s proficiency
in the core skills that contribute to success in school
Direct Daily Measurement
• Used
for observing and recording a child’s
performance on a specific skill each time it is taught
Criterion-Referenced Tests
• Used
to compared a child’s score with a
predetermined criterion
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Identifying LD by Assessing
Responsiveness to Instruction (RTI)
Basic premise of RTI:
• Measuring low-achieving student’s response to increasingly
intensive, scientifically validated instruction can determine
whether the child’s struggles to learn are the result of poor
or insufficient instruction or of a disability for which special
education is needed
Two functions of RTI
• Screening/identification and prevention
Trustworthiness of RTI depends on
• The consistent, rigorous implementation of research-based
interventions
• Accurate, reliable, easy to use measures for monitoring
student progress
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Implementing Responsiveness to
Instruction (RTI)
Tier I: Primary Intervention in the General Education
Classroom
• Primary prevention is provided to all students in the form of
evidence-based curriculum and instruction in the general
education classroom
Tier II: Secondary Intervention
• Students who are struggling in the general education
program receive an intensive fixed-duration trial of smallgroup supplemental tutoring using a research-validated
program
Tier III: Tertiary Intervention
• In most RTI models, Tier 3 is special education
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Benefits and Goals of RTI
Earlier
identification of students using a problem-solving
approach instead of a “wait-to-fail” approach
Reduction
in the number of students referred for special
Reduction
in the over-identification of minority students
education
Provision
of more instructionally useful data than those
provided by traditional methods of assessment and
identification
Increased
likelihood that students are exposed to high-quality
instruction in the general education classroom by stipulating
that schools use evidence-based instructional practices and
routinely monitor the progress of all students
Service
to all students with achievement problems, so that
only those students who fail to respond to multiple levels of
intervention efforts receive the label learning disabled
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Educational Approaches
Content enhancements are used to enhance the
organization and delivery of curriculum content
•
Graphic Organizers and Visual Displays
•
Note-Taking Strategies
•
Guided Notes
•
Mnemonics
A learning strategy is an individual’s approach to
learning tasks
•
Students use task-specific strategies to guide themselves
successfully through a learning task or problem
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Educational Placement Alternatives
General education classroom
•
During the 2008–2009 school year, 62% of students with LD
were educated in general education classrooms.
•
Research on the academic achievement of students with LD in
inclusive classrooms is mixed.
Consultant teacher
•
Provides support to general educators who work directly with
students with learning disabilities
•
Works with several teachers and thus indirectly serve many
children
•
Most consultant teachers have little direct contact with students
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Educational Placement Alternatives
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
•
The resource room teacher works closely with general
educators to suggest and plan each student’s program
•
During the 2008-2009 school year, 28% of students with
learning disabilities were served in resource rooms
Separate classroom
•
A special education teacher is responsible for all education
programming for 8–12 students with learning disabilities
•
During the 2008-2009 school year, 8% of students with
learning disabilities were served in separate classrooms
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William L. Heward Exceptional Children