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Learning Disabilities


Chapter 11 Learning Disabilities Learning disabilities relatively new diagnostic label. Problems were likely mistaken for signs of low intelligence, which is incorrect. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Learning Disabilities

Chapter 11
  • Learning Disabilities

  • Learning disabilities relatively new diagnostic
    label. Problems were likely mistaken for signs
    of low intelligence, which is incorrect.

  • The term first used in 1963 by Dr. Samuel Kirk
  • used the term to describe a group of problems
    that had been previously recognized and studied,
    but had never been given sufficient organized,
    formal attention
  • children with these problems did not fit neatly
    into any major category of disability condition
    recognized at the time

  • Most current definitions of learning disabilities
    include academic performance problems
  • in recent years, concept of learning disabilities
    has had an extremely important influence on
    special education
  • Today, children with learning disabilities are
    the largest group of children with disabilities
    in the United States

Prevalence of Learning Disabilities
  • What is the current estimated prevalence range
    for learning disabilities, and what does that
    mean in numbers of children?

  • Imprecise use of the label learning disabilities
    has made it difficult to determine how many
    children actually do have these disabilities

  • Definitions of learning disabilities varied
    greatly over time and between geographical
  • In addition, the estimated prevalence of learning
    disabilities has always varied greatly, with some
    estimates being so high as to be alarming and

Defining Learning Disabilities
  • Why have definitions of learning disabilities
  • Children with wide variety of problems labeled as
    having learning disabilities
  • Definitions often either very loose and vague or
    tailored to cover those who were already being
    served in order to justify their special treatment

Rapid Growth
  • The growth of the field of learning disabilities
    so rapid, undisciplined
  • No solid, systematic program of scientific
    investigation on which to base programs of
    teacher and therapist preparation
  • Individuals pressed into service frequently had
    little or no training
  • Classes for students with learning disabilities
    quickly became dumping grounds for children with
    all types of difficulties

  • Most widely accepted legal definition
  • General. The term 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 an 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

  • Disorders not included
  • The term does not include learning problems that
    are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or
    motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of
    emotional disturbance, or of environmental,
    cultural, or economic disadvantage

  • The general term learning disabilities is
    insufficiently specific for research and
    instructional purposes
  • The term can be effectively used only as a
    generalized referent or umbrella term, since it
    encompasses a variety of specific types of

Describing and Classifying Learning Disabilities
  • Characteristics attributed to those with learning

  • Frequently one of the first behavioral
    characteristics mentioned
  • often reported that such children cannot sit
    still for more than a very short time, fidget a
    great deal, and are, in general, excessively
  • one of the soft signs (indirect indicators) of
    neurological dysfunction

Academic Achievement Problems
  • Individuals with learning disabilities encounter
    significant problems in academic achievement
  • emergence of learning disabilities as a
    recognized type of exceptionality driven by the
    continuing academic problems that such youngsters
  • accompanied by a number of related problems that
    may also contribute to poor performance
  • Academic achievement difficulties are typically
    the reason why children with learning
    disabilities are identified in the primary grades

  • 8590 of students with learning disabilities
    have reading disabilities
  • In some cases, children lack basic word knowledge
    and have difficulties with word recognition
  • Many can read only slowly and laboriously when
    they can accomplish it at all
  • students can often be taught the necessary skills
    through specific training

Writing and Spelling
  • Handwriting may be very labored and slow,
  • may have problems with forming and spacing
  • poor spelling skills and rather immature
    compositional ability
  • Some researchers connect the handwriting
    proficiency of students with learning
    disabilities to their reading ability

  • problems with simple counting, writing numbers,
    and mastering fundamental math concepts
  • Some students omit numbers when counting,
  • while others can count but do not grasp what the
    numbers mean (their values)
  • many arithmetic problems are word problems that
    require significant reading skills

Perceptual Problems
  • interpreting incoming stimuli incorrectly or not
    perceiving all of the stimulus features.The
    notion that perceptual disorders are related to
    learning disabilities enjoyed considerable
    popularity over the years
  • Interest in this view has diminished somewhat
  • No clear connection between perceptual problems
    and neurological dysfunction

Visual Perception Problems
  • Children with learning disabilities often display
    difficulties in visual perception
  • Children with visual perception problems may
    exhibit a variety of specific deficiencies
  • may see a visual stimulus as unconnected parts

Auditory and Haptic Perception Problems
  • Difficulties in four components of auditory
    perception often been reported, singly or in
    various combinations
  • discrimination may not be able to distinguish
    between the sounds of certain syllables or words
  • auditory blending may be unable to blend the
    phonic elements of a word together into a
    consolidated whole as they say the word
  • auditory memory may not be able to recall
    information that is presented verbally

Attention Problems
  • Children may have an attention problem that
    limits their information-processing abilities
  • selective attention ability to focus attention
    on important stimuli and screen out or ignore
    irrelevant stimuli (incidental learning)
  • some children having learning disabilities do not
    employ selective attention to the same degree
    that normal children do

Social and Emotional
  • learning difficulties seemingly contribute to
    emotional difficulties and low self-esteem,
    which, in turn, may affect motivation and
    academic efforts
  • Such students may also have difficulty
    interacting with others because of misperceived
    social cues and problems in discriminating some
    of the subtle nuances of interpersonal

Developmental Factors
  • Theories of human development have played an
    important role in the study of learning
    disabilities for many years
  • theories regarding developmental delays have been
    involved in researchers frustrated attempts to
    derive a single, comprehensive theory about the
    causation of learning disabilities
  • Developmental theory has been appealed to because
    performance of children with learning
    disabilities often resembles that of younger
    normal children
  • It has been suggested that youngsters with
    learning disabilities show differences and delays
    in neurological development

Etiology of Learning
  • Three causes thought to be involved in learning
  • Neurological Damage
  • Genetic Influences
  • Environmental Influences

Neurological Damage
  • Opinions regarding this explanation vary greatly.
    In most cases, the existence of neurological
    damage as a cause is presumptive, and credible
    supportive evidence is lacking
  • Until technologicy permits more precise
    assessment, determination of a specific
    neurological problem for children remains
  • Most likely, some children labeled as having
    learning disabilities whose problems are based on
    neurological damage

Genetic Influences
  • Some evidence that genetic factors may play a
    role since learning disabilities tend to run in
  • However, it is unlikely that any genetic cause
    can be identified for most or all learning

Environmental Influences
  • Environment must be viewed as a potentially
    important contributor to learning disabilities
    (conceived quite broadly)
  • Certain maternal activities are significant
    during the prenatal period
  • poverty, neglect, food additives, ingestion of
    lead, inappropriate or poor school instruction
  • Deficient general sensory stimulation has also
    been implicated as a cause

Treatment of Learning Disabilities
  • 3 types of interventions or treatments
  • Medications
  • Behavioral Treatment
  • Instructional Interventions

Developmental Considerations
  • Conceptual and explanatory problems associated
    with learning disabilities serve as a constant
    reminder to behavioral scientists that it is
    probably not useful to search for a single theory
    or a single treatment for use with a diverse
    group of individuals
  • Careful consideration of the age of the person
    being treated is required

  • Medication is effective in some areas, such as in
    improving childrens classroom behavior
  • Not as effective in others, such as enhancing
    academic achievement or social adjustment on a
    long-term basis
  • Further, medication may have unfavorable side
    effects, and potential for abuse exists

Behavioral Treatment
  • Used extensively
  • May be aimed at enhancing academic skills or
    modifying other behavior in some fashion
  • In many cases, used to supplement medical
    treatment, although they are also widely used as
    a primary therapy tool
  • Learning strategy interventions may be packaged
    in formats that have considerable appeal to young

Instructional Interventions
  • Most empirically based treatment approach
    involves the use of applied behavior analysis
  • precise use of specific stimuli and consequences
  • permits identification and modification of a wide
    range of behaviors, but is best suited to simple,
    easily observed, and countable behaviors
  • great appeal in educational settings since its
    specific format can be modified

Prognosis for Children with Learning Disabilities
  • How are the services and supports for adolescents
    and adults with learning disabilities different
    from those used with children?

  • The prognosis for those with learning
    disabilities as adults is brighter than ever
  • research literature on adults with learning
    disabilities is increasing
  • the literature on learning disabilities has
    historically focused more on childhood than on
    adolescence and adulthood.
  • Now research on learning disabilities is
    increasingly investigating long-term outcomes in
    adulthood (postsecondary schooling)
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