Learning Disabilities - DOC

Document Sample
Learning Disabilities - DOC Powered By Docstoc
					            Learning Disabilities

Elizabeth Harrison and Stacy Onderdonk-Liguori
              Group Final Project
        ED 447 Disabilities and School
         Professor Susan Hetherington
                 June 28, 2005
         According to the Individualized Disabilities Education Act, a learning disability is a

disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using

languages spoken or written that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen think speak,

read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations. Learning disabilities include conditions such

as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental

aphasia. This definition describes the various disabilities associated with learning that nearly 3

million students have. Learning disabilities vary from person to person so no two people will

have the same kind of learning disability (

         Learning disabilities have often been found to be genetic, meaning that if someone in

your family has one, specifically a parent, then likelihood of having a learning disability

increases ( Learning disabilities are not only genetic

but they are also very difficult to detect. In order for a student to be classified with a learning

disability an expert has to observe a “noticeable difference between how well a child does in

school     and      how    well     he    or       she    could    do    given   his/her     intelligence”

(         In order to make these observations a series of

psychological tests are administered. The most common behaviors associated with learning

disabilities are:

         -Trouble learning the alphabet, reading words, or connecting letters to their sound.

         -Mistakes made when reading aloud and repeating. Student pauses often while reading.

         -Misunderstanding what is read.

         - Trouble spelling.

         - Language learning is delayed and students develop a limited vocabulary.

         - Trouble following directions.

Elizabeth Harrison, and Stacy Onderdonk-Liguori
Group Final Project: Learning Disabilities                                                       2
        - Confusion with math symbols and misreading numbers.

        - Trouble organizing what one wants to say or not being able to think of the words

        needed for writing or conversation.

        - Trouble remembering the sounds that letters make or hearing slight differences between


        - May not know where to begin a task or how to complete a task once it’s begun.

(   These are just a few signs that a child may have a

learning disability. Once these behaviors are noticed the proper action should follow to see if

there is actually a learning disability because these signs could also be an extension of something

else that is affecting the child.

        The biggest question that is often asked when it comes to a learning disability is what

causes this form of disability. The answer to this question is often varied and complex.          An

important factor that may cause a learning disability depends on whether or not the mother of the

child had a difficult pregnancy or birth.          Drug and alcohol abuse can also cause learning

disabilities during pregnancy; lack of oxygen and premature or prolonged birth is another cause

of learning disabilities (         There can also be

incidents after birth that may cause a learning disability, such as a head injury, nutritional

deprivation or exposure to toxic substances, such as lead, or mercury (

LDInfoZone/Info_Fact Sheet_LD.cfm).

        There are several basic categories that learning disabilities fall into. There is visual/

auditory perception, which affects spelling. Visual/auditory memory affects reading decoding

and comprehension. Visual/auditory sequencing affects handwriting and written expression.

Visual/motor coordination affects math computation and application. There are also disabilities

Elizabeth Harrison, and Stacy Onderdonk-Liguori
Group Final Project: Learning Disabilities                                                  3
that affect spatial relations, which deals with having a sense of space, temporal relations, which

affects sense of time, and abstract and logical thinking (

        There are a number of learning disabilities, but this paper will limit its focus to four types

that are important to today’s educators. The first type is dyslexia, which is a language processing

disorder        that       causes        difficulty         in          reading,          writing       and         spelling

(                      Some noticeable signs

of dyslexia would be reading at a low level, difficulty mastering spelling rules, confusion word

pronunciation and poor memory. Dyslexia is considered a lifelong language processing disorder

that       affects      the    development            of         oral         and     written        language         skills


        Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects handwriting and written expression

(                           People           with

dysgraphia have trouble organizing words, letters or numbers. There is also visual spatial

difficulty     in    which     a     person    has     trouble          processing        what      his/her   eyes      see

(                          There are also

difficulties processing language and making sense of what the ear hears. Due to the fact that

dysgraphia is often unaccompanied by other academic difficulties it has been labeled a “specific

learning disability” (Cratty, 1996, 158).

        Dyspraxia is a learning disability that specifically affects the motor skills development.

Dyspraxia            affects        at     least           2%            of         the       general         population

(                         Like     all     other

learning disabilities it is a life long condition. It often co-exists with other learning disabilities,

like dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgrahia.                 Dyspraxia can affect a number of basic daily

functions. There are 4 types of dyspraxia: ideomotor, ideational, oromotor and constructional

Elizabeth Harrison, and Stacy Onderdonk-Liguori
Group Final Project: Learning Disabilities                                                                      4
(   Ideomotor dyspraxia

deals with the inability to complete single-step motor tasks such as combing one’s hair and

waving goodbye.      Ideational dyspraxia deals with the difficulty with multi-step tasks like

brushing teeth, making a bed and putting clothes on. Oromotor dyspraxia deals with difficulties

coordinating the muscle movements needed to pronounce words. Constructional dyspraxia deals

with problems establishing spatial relationships such as being able to accurately position oneself

or move objects from one place to another.

        In young children the signs are slowness to establish left or right-handedness or

frequently bumping into things. In school-age children, the signs are poor coordination, such as

trouble with sports or slow or difficult to understand speech. In teenagers and adults, the signs

are difficulty maintaining volume, pitch, articulation in speaking and difficulty writing    With the help       of

alternative learning, repeated practice of basic tasks along with other help, such as occupational,

physical and speech therapy, an individual with dyspraxia can learn to function and live a

successful (.

       Dyscalculia or acalculia refers to having difficulty with mathematical calculations and

computations (      Like most learning disabilities dyscalculia/acalculia develops

either genetically or later on as a result of neurological and environmental factors

( There is no cure for dyscalculia/acalculia; however, an individual afflicted with

this learning disability can find treatments to help them cope with their disability (

Symptoms of dyscalculia/acalculia include: difficulty learning to count, trouble recognizing

printed numbers, poor memory for numbers, and various other symptoms affecting to math

ability (Ardilia, Rosselli, 2002). Testing for dyscalculia/acalculia or any other learning disability

Elizabeth Harrison, and Stacy Onderdonk-Liguori
Group Final Project: Learning Disabilities                                                 5
involve the psychological or neuropsychological evaluation of cognition (Ardilia, Rosselli,

2002). Calculation abilities are included when testing for general intelligence (e.g. WAIS-III;

Wechsler, 1997) and most neuropsychological assessment procedures worldwide include the

assessment of calculation abilities (Ardilia, Rosselli, 2002). Dyscalculia can be classified into

seven categories: errors in spatial organization of quantities, errors in visual attention,

arithmetical procedural errors, graphic motor errors when writing quantities, numerical judgment

and reasoning errors, memory errors for quantities, and preservation in solving arithmetical

operations and numerical problems. Problems associated to memory deficits may also be present

attention difficulties (Shalvev et al. 1995a,b).

        Dyscalculia/acalculia has been associated with attention deficit disorder. More recently

Shalvev et al. (1995a,b) demonstrated the presence of attention deficit disorder symptoms in

32% of the dyscalculia sample studied. Equally, students with attention deficit syndrome with or

without hyperactivity make mathematical errors secondary to impulsive behavior (Sokol et al.,

1994). There have also been findings where dyscalculia/acalculia have been associated with

dyslexia as well.    However, Rasanen and Ahonen (1995) suggest functional commonality

between dyslexia and dyscalculia/acalculia exist and have found that reading accuracy and

reading speed correlate with the number of errors in arithmetical operations, particularly in

multiplication.   The authors concluded that difficulties in visuoverbal representation might

explain both reading and mathematical disorders. Individuals facing dyscalculia/acalculia or any

other learning disability must realize that these are life long disabilities and do not go away;

however, there are treatments to help a individual with their particular disability.

       Individuals with dyscalculia/acalculia can find treatment within strategies that will help

students learn math more effectively.        Outside help allows the student and tutor to focus

Elizabeth Harrison, and Stacy Onderdonk-Liguori
Group Final Project: Learning Disabilities                                              6
specifically on the difficulties that student is having, such as a high-pressure environment and

moving to new topics too quickly.           Repeated reinforcement and specific practice of

straightforward ideas can make understanding easier. Teachers, parents and administrators can

also help students by encouraging them to become more aware of their strengths and

weaknesses. Understanding how a child learns best is a big step in achieving academic success

and confidence (

       Dyscalculia/acalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and dysgraphia are just a few learning

disabilities mentioned in this paper; however, there are other learning disabilities such as:

information processing disorder, auditory processing disorder, visual processing disorder, and

attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD). Each of these learning disabilities has their

own set of symptoms and treatments. In order to be classified as learning disabled one must

show differences in intelligence and ability. Individuals classified with a learning disability must

go     through      regular     testing     using     the     Wechsler       Intelligence       Scale

(, (Onderdonk-

Liguori and Hetherington, June 7, 2005 and June 9, 2005). There are many different types of the

Wechsler Intelligence Scale that can test individuals ranging from ages 2 to 89 for learning

disabilities (        The purpose of these exams are

for children (regular, revised, and third edition) and the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of

Intelligence are used as a tool in school placement, determining the presence of a learning

disability or a developmental disability, identifying giftedness, and tracking intellectual

development.     The adult version of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale is used to determine

vocational ability, to assess adult intellectual ability in the classroom, and to determine organic

deficits. Wechsler scales are often included in neuropsychological testing to assess the brain

Elizabeth Harrison, and Stacy Onderdonk-Liguori
Group Final Project: Learning Disabilities                                                  7
function            of           individuals            with            neurological           impairments.

(   What   is   unknown   is

whether these test have a practice effect due to the fact that individuals with learning disability

must undergo these exams every two to three years (Carona, 2001). Though there may be

imperfections with intelligence tests, these tests help classify individuals so that they are able to

receive academic services. They also help teachers acquire the knowledge to know what is

needed for their students to be successful in the academic world.

        The most important thing that a student with a learning disability needs to know is that

his/her teacher can work with him/her to ensure that he/she does not fall behind in school

because of his/her disability. It’s important for teachers and the school to show support and

understanding when they have a student with a learning disability. Parents, teachers and school

administrators should work together to make sure that the needs of the student are met. There

are services for students with learning disabilities, such as special education and other related

services. The school can work with the parents of the child to create an Individualized Education

Plan (IEP) (        The IEP describes the specific needs of

the student as well as the services that will be provided (Hock, 2000).

        Teachers should make sure that they find ways to accommodate the needs of their

students. The first thing teachers should do is become knowledgeable about the various learning

disabilities. The teacher should also emphasize the strengths and interests of the student. They

should give the student positive feedback and plenty of opportunities for practice. Through the

IEP and other evaluation records the teacher should find the specific area of trouble the student

has. Finding useful teaching methods you can use for this student is also helpful. Teachers can

also use other ways to accommodate students such as giving students more time to finish

Elizabeth Harrison, and Stacy Onderdonk-Liguori
Group Final Project: Learning Disabilities                                                         8
schoolwork or take tests. They can also let students with reading problems use textbooks on

tape. There is also letting the student with listening difficulties borrow notes from a classmate or

use a tape recorder in the classroom. These are just a few ways for teachers to make learning

less difficult for their learning disabled students (   In

dealing with parents, teachers should establish a positive relationship through regular

communication and frequent updates on the student’s progress in school.

        Parents are the most important people in life of a child with a learning disability. Parents

need to provide love, support and understanding when dealing with a child with a learning

disability. Information about the learning disability that the child has is something every parent

must have. Parents need to also be aware of the many resources and organizations that provide

all kinds of support for them and their child. Parents should form partnerships with the school

staff, especially teachers, as well as the child’s medical providers. The National Information

Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY) encourages parents to consider

counseling for their child so their child can better deal with frustration, feel better about

themselves           and         most              importantly         develop      social          skills


        An important decision that parents and children with a learning disability must deal with

is whether or not to medicate. Medication is often used to control the behavior of the child and

through an improvement in behavior, it is hoped, the child’s ability to learn will be enhanced

(Lerner, 70, 1981). It is said that antidepressants and energizers have a calming effect on the

child, which will stop impulsive or destructive behavior (Lerner, 71). The various types of drugs

that are available to children with learning disabilities are Ritalin, Dexedrine and Cylert

(       These drugs are often prescribed for

children with attention disorders. According to Psychology Today, these drugs temporarily

Elizabeth Harrison, and Stacy Onderdonk-Liguori
Group Final Project: Learning Disabilities                                                      9
improve children’s attention and ability to focus.        The drugs are effective, according to

Psychology Today, for 3-4 hours and move out of the body within 12 hours. The child’s doctor

adjusts the dosage and medication schedule for the best effect. Parents have to be committed to

making sure that the child receives the medication at the scheduled time and the correct dosage.

Teachers also have a responsibility to observe and report any behaviors that may be a negative

effect of the drug while the child is in school, such as drowsiness or loss of appetite (Lerner, 71).

Ultimately the use of medication is a family decision and the concerns of the parents have to be

met by doctors before they can prescribe any drugs for their child.

       In looking at Learning Disabilities people need to look at it less as a medical diagnosis

and more as a way of life. Learning Disabilities not only affect schoolwork but they also affect

life outside of school. The type of learning disability a person has will affect their experiences in

and outside of the classroom. For example, those who have visual/auditory memory disability

will have a hard time reading or understanding writing outside of the classroom as well as in the

classroom. So a person with visual/auditory memory disability will have trouble reading and

understanding forms, newspapers, maps and any other written materials. Not only should we

view learning disabilities as a way of life, according to Christensen (1999, 233), we should also

look at it as social practice. This means that society, or those in power, decides what a learning

disability is and who has it, so it is based on society’s concept of what a learning disability looks

like. Christensen (1999, 233) also found that in identifying students as having a learning

disability is often based on “funding and policy pressure.” In stating this we need to look at who

is being labeled as having a learning disability, why they are being labeled in that manner, and

what the implications behind it are. It’s been said there is an overrepresentation of students of

color and boys that are labeled as having a learning disability (Oakes and Lipton 2003). In

Elizabeth Harrison, and Stacy Onderdonk-Liguori
Group Final Project: Learning Disabilities                                                10
looking at these overrepresented groups we need to also figure out what a learning disability

really is, not what society or schools says it is.

        Schools benefit from the current definition of a learning disability. Christensen (p. 237)

points out that “learning disabilities help to legitimate or sustain existing school practices by

providing a mechanism to attribute school failure to a deficit within the child rather than the

structure and organization of school.” From Christensen’s point of view and what we see across

the country in today’s schools, schools don’t feel as though a child’s learning is affected by the

schooling environment, it instead feels that the child has to adapt to the school environment by

changing the way they learn. This says that schools are not willing to accommodate the diversity

of learning needs of their students so they will instead take the student out of the classroom and

segregate them from the students who are able to adapt to the school environment or learn the

“normal” way. This is of course full of conflict and it leaves the power, once again, in the hands

of the school to decide who has a learning disorder and what it is.

        There needs to be a consensus among educators, parents and society that children with

learning disabilities are only children who learn differently and if that’s the case then perhaps

they shouldn’t be labeled as learning disabled since not everyone learns the same way. The

school culture needs to embrace and understand these differences and make it a priority in

accommodating the diversity of learning styles in the classroom. Without an understanding from

the school or society, students with learning disabilities or any other disability will be left to feel

that they are unable to learn, their learning and contributions in the classroom and outside of it

are not good enough and may give up on themselves and their ability to learn due to lack of help

from school staff. By accepting a notion of diversity of learner’s, schools can prevent learning

disabled students from feeling those ways that have been described and can, through various

Elizabeth Harrison, and Stacy Onderdonk-Liguori
Group Final Project: Learning Disabilities                                                  11
methods, strategies, and partnerships can instead produce confident, educated, students

regardless of their learning styles.

Elizabeth Harrison, and Stacy Onderdonk-Liguori
Group Final Project: Learning Disabilities                                    12

Ardila, Alfredo, and Rosselli, Monica. (2002). Acalculia and Dyscalculia. Neuropsychology
Review 12:4: 179-231 December 2002

Carona, Francine, D. (2001) Practice effects on the WAIS III. University of Tulsa Graduate

Christensen, C. (1999) Learning disabilities: issues of representation,power and the
medicalization of school power. In Sternberg, R and Spear-Swerling, L. (Eds.) Perspectives on
Learning Disabilities. Boulder: Westview Press.

Cratty, Byant, J., and Goodman, Richard, L. (1996). Learning disabilities: Contemporary
viewpoints. Amsterdam, Hardwood academic publishers.

Cruickshank, William, M., Morse, William, C., Johns, Jeanne, S. (1980). Learning Disabilities:
The struggle from adolescences toward adulthood. Syracuse New York, Johns University

Hock, Michael. (2000). Standards, assessments, and individualized education programs. In:
Villa, R. and Thousand, J. (eds.) Restructuring for caring and effective education. Baltimore,
Brookes Publishing.

Lerner, J. (1981). Learning Disabilities: Theories, Diagnosis and Teaching Strategies. Boston,
Houghton Mifflin Company.

Oakes, Jeannie and Lipton, Martin, (2003). Teaching to change the world. New York McGraw

Rasanen, P., and Ahonen, T. (1995). Arithmetic disabilities with and without reading difficulties:
A comparison of arithmetic errors. Dev. Neuropsychology. 11: 257-298

Shalev, R. S., Auerbach, J., and Gross-Tsur, V. (1995a). Developmental dyscalculia behavioral
and attentional aspects: A research note. J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry 36:1261-1268

Shalev, R. S., Manor, O., Amir, N., Wertman, E., and Gross-Tsur, V. (1995b). Developmental
dyscalculia and brain laterality. Cortex 31: 357-365

Sokol, S. M, Macaruso, P., and Gollan, T. H. (1994). Developmental dyscalculia and cognitive
neuropsychological. Dev. Neuropsychol. 10: 413-442

National Institute for Learning Disabilities,
National Center for Learning Disabilities,
National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities,

Elizabeth Harrison, and Stacy Onderdonk-Liguori
Group Final Project: Learning Disabilities                                              13
Psychology Today,
Medical Library:

Elizabeth Harrison, and Stacy Onderdonk-Liguori
Group Final Project: Learning Disabilities                   14