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Specific Learning Disability

An Overview

Nicole Purcell

on 4 September 2014

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Transcript of Specific Learning Disability

Specific Learning

About Specific

Characteristics of SLD
Causes of Specific Learning Disabilities
Just as there are different types of learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia, language disabilities, math disabilities), there are likely to be different causes. Four suspected causal factors are brain damage, heredity, biochemical imbalance, and environmental causes.

Many people are not educated about special needs children so they make incorrect, and often harmful assumptions about them.
“Stigma, underachievement and misunderstanding of SLD continue to be stubborn barriers for parents and children to overcome. The data in the 2014 NCLD report reveal that, left unaddressed, as many as 60 million individuals risk being left behind, burdened by low self-esteem, subjected to low expectations, and diminished in their ability to pursue their dreams.”
– James H. Wendorf, NCLD Executive Director
National Center for Learning Disabilities
SLD is the largest category of students receiving special education services (42 percent of the 5.7 million school-age children with all kinds of disabilities).
There are 2.4 million American public school students (approximately 5 percent of the total public school enrollment) identified with SLD under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Two-thirds (66 percent) of students identified with SLD are male, while overall public school enrollment is evenly split between males and females.
The inherent danger in a list of the physical and psychological characteristics often exhibited by children with learning disabilities is the tendency to assume, or to look for, each of those characteristics in all children considered in the category. This danger is especially troublesome with learning disabilities because the category includes children who exhibit a wide range of learning, social, and emotional problems.
The defining characteristic of students with learning disabilities is specific and significant achievement deficits in the presence of adequate overall intelligence.

The difference between what students with learning disabilities “are expected to do and what they can do . . . grows larger and larger” over time (Deshler, Schumaker, & Lenz, 2001, p. 97).
IDEA’s Definition of “Specific Learning Disability”
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, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.
Up to one-third of people attribute SLD to causes that are inaccurate, including excessive time watching TV (22 percent), poor diet (31 percent) and childhood vaccinations (24 percent).
Seven out of ten people mistakenly link SLD with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorders.
One in three parents report deep feelings of isolation, stress, anxiety, guilt and pessimism regarding their child’s learning and attention issues.
Why does it Matter?
SLD is one of the more common disabilities you’ll encounter in the classroom. Almost 1 million children (ages 6 through 21) have some form of a learning disability and receive special education in school. So it’s likely that you will work with many students who have a specific learning disability.
The actual structure of the brain of some children with reading disabilities is slightly different from that of children without disabilities (Leonard, 2001).
Recent advances in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology have enabled researchers to discover that specific regions of the brains of some individuals with reading and language disabilities show activation patterns during phonological processing tasks that are different from the patterns found in the brains of nondisabled individuals (Miller, Sanchez, & Hynd, 2003; Richards, 2001; Simos, Breier, Fletcher, Bergman, & Papanicolaou, 2000).
Lets Look at the The Brain
A Word of Caution
Special educators must be aware of placing too much emphasis on theories linking learning disabilities to brain damage or brain dysfunction, for three major reasons:
First, not all children with learning disabilities display clinical (medical) evidence of brain damage, and not all children with brain damage have learning disabilities.
The second problem is that assuming a child’s learning problems are caused by a dysfunctioning brain can serve as a built-in excuse for ineffective instruction. When a student with suspected brain damage fails to learn, his teachers may be quick to presume that the brain injury prevents him from learning and be slow to analyze and change instructional variables.
Third, whether “learning disabilities in an individual case are symptoms that result from brain injury or developmental delay will not essentially alter the methods of teaching the student” (Myers & Hammill, 1990, p. 22).
Environmental factors (e.g., instruction) must be in place to develop the neural networks that support academic skills. Even genetic studies of reading disability show that only about 50 percent of the variability in reading skills can be explained by genetic factors—the remainder is environmental.
Siblings and children of persons with reading disabilities have a slightly greater than normal likelihood of having reading problems. There is growing evidence that genetics may account for at least some family links with dyslexia (Pennington, 1995; Raskind, 2001).
Environmental factors—particularly impoverished living conditions early in a child’s life and poor instruction—probably contribute to the achievement deficits experienced by many children in this special education category.
Another environmental variable that is likely to contribute to children’s learning problems is the quality of instruction they receive. It would be naive to think, however, that the achievement problems of all children with learning disabilities are caused entirely by inadequate instruction.
Key Consideration
Defining Characteristic
Specific Characteristics
Students with learning disabilities experience one or more of the following characteristics: reading problems, deficits in written language, underachievement in math, poor social skills, attention deficits and hyperactivity, and behavioral problems.
Difficulty with reading is by far the most common characteristic of students with learning disabilities. It is estimated that 90% of all children identified as learning disabled are referred for special education services because of reading problems (Kavale & Forness, 2000).
Evidence suggests that specific reading disability, also called dyslexia, is a persistent deficit, not simply a developmental lag in linguistic or basic reading skills (Lyon, 1995).
Dyslexia affects 1 in 5 Students
Dyscalculia: More than 50% of students with learning disabilities have IEP goals in math!
Numerical reasoning and calculation pose major problems for many students with learning disabilities.
Students with learning disabilities perform lower than normally achieving children with every type of arithmetic problem at every grade level (Cawley, Parmar, Foley, Salmon, & Roy, 2001).
Deficits in retrieving number facts and solving story problems are particularly evident (Jordan & Hanich, 2000; Ostad, 1998).
The math competence of students with learning disabilities progresses about 1 year for every 2 years in school, and the skills of many children plateau by age 10 or 12 (Cawley, Parmar, Yan, & Miller, 1998).
Social Skills Deficits: social competence and peer acceptance are not characteristics of learning disabilities but outcomes of the different social climates created by teachers, peers, parents, and others with whom students with learning disabilities interact (Vaughn, McIntosh, Schumm, Haager, & Callwood, 1993).
Attention Problems and Hyperactivity

Some students with learning disabilities have difficulty attending to a task and/or display high rates of purposeless movement (hyperactivity). Children who consistently exhibit this combination of behavioral traits may be diagnosed as having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Dysgraphia: a learning disability that affects writing, which requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills.

Dysgraphia makes the act of writing difficult. It can lead to problems with spelling, poor handwriting and putting thoughts on paper. People with dysgraphia can have trouble organizing letters, numbers and words on a line or page. This can result partly from:

Visual-spatial difficulties: trouble processing what the eye sees
Language processing difficulty: trouble processing and making sense of what the ear hears
Educational Requirements

What works best?
A collaborative relationship between the child’s teachers and the school, strategic approaches to homework, and understanding the IEP process inside and out.

Causes of Learning Disabilities. (n.d). Retrieved from
Characteristics of Learning Disabilities in Students. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://education.com/reference/articlecharatcteristics-learning-disabilities/
Your Classroom: 7 Tips for Teachers. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://nichcy.org/Id-7-tips-for-teachers
Special Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://sped.dpi.wi.gov/sped_Idcriter
The State of Learning Disabilitis | Students & Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/what-is-Id/state-of-learning-disabilities
Accommodations are changes to the classroom environment, assignment, or exam without changing the content or the standards the student is expected to master. The student is still expected to demonstrate their understanding of the same material as their peers, but they are given supports by altering the way the information is presented or how the student responds. Accommodations can be applied content areas, such as math, reading, writing, and social studies. In addition, you can create accommodations for exams, homework and classwork assignments, organization, time management, behavior, and the classroom environment.
What are accommodations?
Example of an Accommodation
For example, a student with dyslexia may struggle to decode a text at their grade level. As an accommodation, the teacher can provide the student with an audio copy of the book and graphic organizers to help the student record and comprehend the content in the book.
What are Modifications?
are changes to the content being taught. Oftentimes, the amount or complexity of material the student is expected to master is reduced. For example, we might modify an exam by reducing the number of questions.
Multi-Sensory Instructional Programs &
Tools for All Students
Barton Reading & Spelling Program
Touch Math
Handwriting Without Tears
Accelerated Reader Audio Component
Kinetic Sand

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