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Learning Disabilities (reviewed August 1999)

Please provide an overview of learning disabilities.

The term "learning disability" describes a neurobiological disorder in which a person's brain works or is structured differently. These differences interfere with a person's ability to think and remember. Learning disabilities can affect a person's ability to speak, listen, read, write, spell, reason, recall, organize information, and do mathematics.

Because learning disabilities cannot be seen, they often go undetected. Recognizing a learning disability is even more difficult because the severity and characteristics vary.

A learning disability can't be cured or fixed; it is a lifelong issue. With the right support and intervention, however, children with learning disabilities can succeed in school and go on to successful, often distinguished careers later in life. Parents can help children with learning disabilities achieve such success by encouraging their strengths, knowing their weaknesses, understanding the educational system, working with professionals and learning about strategies for dealing with specific difficulties.

Facts About Learning Disabilities

  • Fifteen percent of the U.S. population, or one in seven Americans, has some type of learning disability, according to the National Institutes of Health.
  • Difficulty with basic reading and language skills are the most common learning disabilities. As many as 80% of students with learning disabilities have reading problems.
  • Learning disabilities often run in families.
  • Learning disabilities should not be confused with other disabilities such as mental retardation, autism, deafness, blindness, and behavioral disorders. None of these conditions are learning disabilities. In addition, they should not be confused with lack of educational opportunities like frequent changes of schools or attendance problems. Also, children who are learning English do not necessarily have a learning disability. Attention disorders, such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities often occur at the same time, but the two disorders are not the same. (From the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities, funded by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation.)

The federal government defines learning disabilities in Public Law 94-142, as amended by Public Law 101-76 (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA]):

"Specific learning disability means a disorder in 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 to do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include children who have problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, or mental retardation, emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage."

Although the definition in federal law governs the identification of and services to children with learning disabilities (LD), there are variations between states and among school systems. In an attempt to clarify the identification, some states specify an intelligence range. Others add a concept of a discrepancy between potential and achievement, sometimes quantifying the discrepancy using test scores. These slightly different "yardsticks" are indicative of a lack of clear consensus about exactly what learning disabilities are. (From ERIC EC Digest E516, Learning Disabilities.)

Following are links to ERIC digests, minibibliographies, frequently asked questions (FAQs), related Internet resources, and Internet discussion groups, as well as selected citations from the ERIC database and the search terms we used to find the citations.


You can search the ERIC database yourself on the Internet through either of the following web sites:

ERIC Citations

The full text of citations beginning with an ED number (for example, EDxxxxxx) is available:

  • In microfiche collections worldwide; to find your nearest ERIC Resource Collection, point your web browser to: http://ericae.net/derc.htm.
  • For a fee through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS): http://edrs.com, service@edrs.com, or 1.800.443.ERIC. (no longer available)

The full text of citations beginning with an EJ number (for example, EJxxxxxx) is available for a fee from:

ERIC Search Terms Used

learning disabilities

EJ491125 EC609655
Toward Better Identification of Learning Disabilities.
Bateman, Barbara D.
Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, v5 n2 p95-99 Aug 1994
ISSN: 1046-6819
Document Type: JOURNAL ARTICLE (080); NON-CLASSROOM MATERIAL(055)
Target Audience: Practitioners
A three-stage identification process is recommended for students suspected of having learning disabilities. This process examines discrepancy, causality, and the need for special education, and it complies with legal requirements.
Descriptors: *Compliance (Legal); *Disability Identification; Elementary Secondary Education; Etiology; Evaluation Methods; *Learning Disabilities; Models; Student Evaluation; *Student Needs Identifiers: *Discrepancy Model

ED368088 EC302833
Learning Disabilities: Best Practices for Professionals.
Bender, William N., Ed.
1993; 334p. ISBN: 1-56372-058-2
Available From: Butterworth Heinemann, 80 Montvale Ave., Stoneham, MA 02180 ($45). Document Not Available from EDRS. Document Type: BOOK (010); COLLECTION (020)
Geographic Source: U.S.; Georgia
Target Audience: Practitioners
This book is written to assist the reader in understanding current thinking in the field of learning disabilities (LD), as well as current practices in that field. Part I describes the characteristics typically associated with LD, and includes the following chapters: "Neurological Basis of Learning Disabilities" (Richard M. Marshall and George W. Hynd); "Cognitive Abilities" (H. Lee Swanson); and "Social/Behavioral Characteristics" (Terry M. McLeod). Part II describes the measurement of various characteristics of LD in the following chapters: "Assessment and Identification Practices" (Sherri Strawser); "Informal Assessment in the Classroom" (Lisa E. Monda-Amaya and Fran Reed); and "Eligibility and Placement Team Meetings" (Harry L. Dangel). Part III presents information on the best practices currently employed in the treatment and education of individuals with learning disabilities, and includes the following chapters: "Behavioral Interventions" (Cynthia O. Vail and Deborah J. Huntington); "Metacognitive Strategies" (Kristin S. Scott); "Building a Pragmatic Language" (Carol Weller); "Interventions for Attention Problems" (Deborah J. Huntington and William N. Bender); "Social Skills Training: Why, Who, What and How" (Sharon Vaughn and Annette La Greca); "Vocational and Independent Living Skills" (Phillip J. McLaughlin and Margaret A. Martin); and "College-Level Instructional Interventions" (Margaret A. Martin and Phillip J. McLaughlin). Appendices describe a variety of social skills intervention programs and present a sample resume for a hypothetical LD adult. Individual chapters contain references.
Descriptors: Attention Deficit Disorders; Cognitive Psychology; *Daily Living Skills; *Disability Identification; Educational Diagnosis; *Educational Practices; Elementary Secondary Education; Eligibility; Etiology; Higher Education; Independent Living; *Interpersonal Competence; *Learning Disabilities; *Metacognition; Neurology; Socialization; Special Education; Student Evaluation; Student Placement; Teaching Methods; Vocational Education

EJ539141 EA533110
The LD Label. Research Report.
Black, Susan
American School Board Journal, v184 n3 p34-36 Mar 1997
ISSN: 0003-0953
Document Type: REVIEW LITERATURE (070); JOURNAL ARTICLE (080)
Presents an overview of problems involved in identifying and defining "learning-disabled" students. Confusion is caused by varying state definitions and different interpretations of state and federal laws. Discusses the neuroscientific approach to classifying student learning styles and the ways in which the learning-disabled label is sometimes abused by schools or parents.
Descriptors: Early Intervention; *Educational Diagnosis; Elementary Secondary Education; Federal Legislation; *Learning Disabilities; *Learning Problems; Learning Strategies; *Special Education; *Special Needs Students

ED411649 EC305841
Learning Disabilities: Lifelong Issues.
Cramer, Shirley C., Ed.; Ellis, William, Ed.
1996; 319p.
ISBN: 1-55766-240-1
Available From: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., P.O. Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624.
Document Not Available from EDRS.
Document Type: BOOK (010); COLLECTION (020); REVIEW LITERATURE(070)
Geographic Source: U.S.; Maryland
This book contains papers on learning disabilities based on presentations made at the "Summit on Learning Disabilities: A National Responsibility," held in September 1994. The first section provides an overview and includes "The State of Research" (G. Reid Lyon). The second section focuses on education and includes: "Preventing Early Reading Failure" (Benita A. Blachman); "Public Policy: An Agenda for the Future" (Edwin W. Martin); "Strategies for Implementing Policies" (Barbara K. Keogh); "Head Start and Young Children with Learning Disabilities" (Helen Taylor); "Implementing Effective Instruction" (Louisa Cook Moats); "Academic Accommodations: A Personal View" (Shelley Mosley Stanzel); "Education Reform: A Child-Centered Perspective" (Waldemar Rojas); "A Developmental Pediatric Perspective on Neurologically Based Specific Learning Disabilities" (Pasquale J. Accardo); "A Separate and Unequal Education for Minorities with Learning Disabilities" (Joseph P. Shapiro); and "Strengthening the Profession" (Douglas Carnine). The third section addresses labor issues and includes: "Research Directions Leading toward Inclusion, Diversity, and Leadership in the Global Economy" (Noel Gregg); "Accommodations Workers withLearning Disabilities" (Marcia B. Reback); "Center for Excellence: Learning Disabilitiesin the Workplace" (Gary F. Beasley); "The Four R's: Recognition, Remediation, Rehabilitation, and Reasonable Accommodation" (Glenn Young); "Employment: AResearch Review and Agenda" (Susan A. Vogel); "Building Bridges" (Neil A. Sturomski); "Dyslexia to Pluslexia" (Delos R. Smith); "Information, Illustration, and Inspiration" (Richard C. Strauss); "The Emotional Toll" (Sally L. Smith); and "Employment Realities and Priorities" (Paul L. Gerber). The next section highlights justice issues and includes: "Shaping Public Policy" (Judith E. Heumann); "The Justice System" (Carolyn R. Eggleston); "Review of Research on Learning Disabilities and Juvenile Delinquency" (Dorothy Crawford); "The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: Effects on Students with Learning Disabilities" (John L. Wodatch); "The Link between Learning Disabilities and Behavior" (G. Emerson Dickman); "Reducing School Failure and Preventing Criminal Behavior" (Thomas P. McGee); "Academic Performance and Its Relationship to Delinquency" (Eugene Maguin and Rolf Loeber); and "Learning Disabilities in Perspective" (Mark J. Griffin). The fifth section focuses on health and human services and includes: "Learning Disabilities as a Public Health Concern" (Duane Alexander); "Unlocking Learning Disabilities: The Neurological Basis" (Sally E. Shaywitz and Bennett A. Shaywitz); "Advocacy" (Patricia Glatz); "Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder" (Jack M. Fletcher and Bennett A. Shaywitz); and "Research Implications for Health and Human Services" (Melinda Parrill). The last section includes the paper "Looking to the Future" (Shirley C. Cramer). (Each paper contains references.)
Descriptors: Adults; Advocacy; Attention Deficit Disorders; Behavior Problems; *Delinquency; Educational Innovation; *Educational Strategies; Elementary Secondary Education; *Employment; Equal Education; *Etiology; Inclusive Schools; Juvenile Justice; Laws; *Learning Disabilities; Preschool Education; *Public Policy; Reading Difficulties; Research Needs; Teacher Education Programs Identifiers: Americans withDisabilities Act 1990; Project Head Start; Reasonable Accommodation (Disabilities)

EJ547420 EC616714
A Sociocultural Perspective on Learning and Learning Disabilities.
Keogh, Barbara K.; And Others
Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, v12 n2 p107-113 Spr 1997
ISSN: 0938-8982
Document Type: REVIEW LITERATURE (070); JOURNAL ARTICLE (080)
Discusses the use of a sociocultural perspective on learning and learning disabilities for understanding learning problems within culturally diverse groups. Reviews assumptions about ethnicity and culture (supposed homogeneity within cultures) and describes ways to distinguish ethnicity and culture. Discusses implications for assessment, identification, and instruction.
Descriptors: Cultural Awareness; *Cultural Differences; *Cultural Influences; Disability Identification; *Diversity (Student); Elementary Secondary Education; Ethnic Groups; *Ethnicity; Instructional Improvement; *Learning Disabilities; *Student Evaluation

EJ544376 EC616048
Progress and Promise in Research in Learning Disabilities.
Lyon, G. Reid; And Others
Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, v8 n1 p1-6 Win 1997
ISSN: 1046-6819
Document Type: JOURNAL ARTICLE (080); PROJECT DESCRIPTION (141)
Describes the five learning disability research centers that make up the collaborative research network of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Highlights the teams and focus of the centers, and identifies the findings of the centers and issues that need to be examined.
Descriptors: Agency Cooperation; Elementary Secondary Education; *Etiology; *Exceptional Child Research; Federal Programs; *Learning Disabilities; *Research Directors; *Research Needs; *Research Projects Identifiers: National Institute ChildHealth Human Development

ED370328 EC303060
Learning Disabilities.
Neuwirth, Sharyn
National Inst. of Mental Health (DHHS), Rockville, MD. Sep 1993
44p.; Report No: NIH-93-3611
EDRS Price - MF01/PC02 Plus Postage.
Document Type: REVIEW LITERATURE (070); NON-CLASSROOM MATERIAL(055)
Geographic Source: U.S.; Maryland
Government: Federal
This booklet uses hypothetical case examples to illustrate the definition, causal theories, and specific types of learning disabilities (LD). The cognitive and language performance of students with LD is compared to standard developmental milestones, and common approaches to the identification and education of children with LD are outlined. Research supporting or refuting the effectiveness of various medications and diets is summarized and general suggestions are provided for families attempting to cope with the stress of raising a child with LD. The outlook for the future is explored in a discussion considering whether learning disabilities can be outgrown or cured, a description of services available to adults with LD, and a summary of research being sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. The pamphlet concludes with a list of print resources and support groups relating to LD.
Descriptors: Clinical Diagnosis; *Coping; *Disability Identification; Drug Therapy; Educational Diagnosis; Elementary Secondary Education; *Etiology; *Intervention; *Learning Disabilities; Special Education; Symptoms (Individual Disorders)

EJ550650 EC617192
What Have We Learned and Where Are We Headed?
O'Shea, Dorothy J., Ed.; O'Shea, Lawrence J., Ed.
Journal of Learning Disabilities, v30 n4 p376-77 Jul-Aug 1997
Document Type: JOURNAL ARTICLE (080); POSITION PAPER (120)
Introduces a series of articles discussing what has been learned about collaboration between regular and special education, school reform as it relates to past knowledge, and future endeavors regarding students with learning disabilities. Summaries of each of the nine articles in the series are included.
Descriptors: *Educational Change; *Educational Innovation; Elementary Secondary Education; Inclusive Schools; *Learning Disabilities; *Regular and Special Education Relationship; *Teacher Collaboration

EJ554426 PS527243
Children at Risk.
Richardson, Sylvia O.
Montessori Life, v9 n3 p26-30 Sum 1997
ISSN: 1054-0040
Document Type: NON-CLASSROOM MATERIAL (055); REVIEW LITERATURE(070); JOURNAL ARTICLE (080)
Examines major characteristics of learning disabilities and the significance of Montessori principles as they may be applied in the education of children with learning disabilities. Addresses disorders of gross and fine motor coordination, language, attention, and perception. Describes exercises in practical life skills, sensory education, and language enhancement.
Descriptors: Disabilities; Early Childhood Education; *High Risk Students; Individualized Instruction; *Language Skills; *Learning Disabilities; *Montessori Method; Motor Development; *Psychomotor Skills; Student Centered Curriculum Identifiers: *Montessori Schools

EJ422457 CG538811
Nonverbal Learning Disabilities: The Syndrome and a Case Study.
Rourke, Byron P.; And Others
Journal of School Psychology, v28 n4 p361-85 Win 1990
ISSN: 0022-4405
Document Type: JOURNAL ARTICLE (080); GENERAL REPORT (140)
Presents syndrome of nonverbal learning disabilities (NLD) and model developed to encompass its complex manifestations. Includes history of development of syndrome, types of children in whom its principal features are manifest, hypothesized neurological bases of syndrome, and test of its developmental dimensions. Provides case study and discusses general developmental and treatment implications of NLD.
Descriptors: Adolescents; Case Studies; Child Development; Children; Foreign Countries; *Learning Disabilities; *Neurological Impairments; *Neuropsychology; *Nonverbal Ability; Symptoms (Individual Disorders) Identifiers: Canada

EJ511910 EC612473
Operationalizing a Definition of Learning Disabilities.
Shaw, Stan F.; And Others
Journal of Learning Disabilities, v28 n9 p586-97 Nov 1995
ISSN: 0022-2194
Document Type: JOURNAL ARTICLE (080); POSITION PAPER (120)
Past, present, and future concerns regarding the definition of learning disabilities (LD) are documented. Research on efforts to clarify the LD label is discussed, including the questionable utility of the discrepancy model. An approach is presented for operationalizing the definition of LD of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities.
Descriptors: Classification; *Definitions; Disability Identification; Educational Diagnosis; Elementary Secondary Education; Evaluation Criteria; *Labeling (of Persons); *Learning Disabilities; *Symptoms (Individual Disorders); *Theory Practice Relationship Identifiers: Discrepancy Formulas

ED381925 EC303871
Learning Disabilities, An Understanding and Definition.
Willard, Clifton D.
Nov 1994; 6p.
EDRS Price - MF01/PC01 Plus Postage.
Document Type: POSITION PAPER (120)
Geographic Source: U.S.; Tennessee
A counselor with a dyslexic-like disability shares three conclusions concerning this type of disability. First, difficulties with reading, math, writing, heard language, and nonverbal language are not the disability but the symptom of the disability. Second, these disabilities are dynamic in nature and therefore the symptoms fluctuate somewhere between minimal and severe from one minute to the next or from one day to the next. Third, the choices the individual with the disability makes and the choices that are made for that individual by others will determine how disabled that person is by the disability. Dyslexic-like symptoms are thought to occur when one or more of the language process systems is out of sync (timing) with the other processes in the system. An example is given showing how the normally automatic reading process becomes a five-step manual process for the individual with a dyslexic-like disability. Conclusions that involve compensating through wise choices and the use of technology are discussed.
Descriptors: Academic Achievement; Definitions; *Dyslexia; Elementary Secondary Education; Individual Characteristics; *Learning Disabilities; Perception; Perceptual Impairments; Personal Autonomy; *Symptoms (Individual Disorders)

ED411641 EC305832
Learning Disabilities: Organizations and Resources, Reference Circular, No. 97-01. Library of Congress, Washington, DC. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. 1997
28p.; EDRS Price - MF01/PC02 Plus Postage.
Document Type: BIBLIOGRAPHY (131)
Geographic Source: U.S.; District of Columbia
Government: Federal
This reference circular describes sources of information for persons with learning disabilities, their families, and professionals. Section 1 is an annotated, alphabetical listing of 29 organizations, including information clearinghouses, research institutions, referral agencies, and advocacy groups. These organizations provide information on parenting, education, transition from high school to work or higher education, employment, independent living skills, and legal advocacy. Section 2 is a selective bibliography of 59 print and nonprint materials dealing with learning disabilities. Topics include information for parents, education, legislation, and adaptive technologies. Section 3 describes six federal laws concerning education and employment of persons with learning disabilities. Section 4 lists state agencies that administer rehabilitation programs for persons with learning disabilities.
Descriptors: Educational Legislation; Elementary Secondary Education; Federal Legislation; Higher Education; *Information Sources; *Learning Disabilities; National Organizations; *Organizations (Groups); Public Agencies; Rehabilitation
 

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