Specific Learning Disabilities
Specific Learning Disabilities — Definitions
Many attempts have been made to precisely define specific learning disabilities. The standard definition adopted by most (including U.S. legislation) is as follows:
- ‘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 learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
This definition leaves open a wide variety of interpretations. To more precisely quantify Child Learning Disabilities and to qualify students for federal special education funds and services, a “deficit performance standard” has been widely adopted. In this model, a student’s general IQ score is measured. Their academic performance is also tested using a variety of achievement tests. If the actual achievement level is 2 or more years behind the expected level (based on the IQ score), a specific learning disability is presumed to be present and the cause of the deficit.
The practical result of the deficit model and definition is a vague, often arbitrary classification of a student as LD. This does little or nothing to guide treatment or uncover the real causes of the learning struggle.
Specific Learning Disabilities – Is There an Identifiable Cause for Learning Disabilities?
Yes. There are a variety of causes that can contribute to a student’s struggle to learn. While a certain number of students struggle due to basic genetic limits and others struggle because of poor or inadequate instruction, the largest single cause of learning struggles is weak underlying cognitive skills.
Specific Learning Disabilities – How Weak Skills Impact Learning
Learning is a complex task that requires several mental functions to coordinate and work efficiently if the effort is to succeed. When students try to read, they must be able to process the visual images that are the letters and words. They need to simultaneously recall and associate those images with the correct sounds. At the same time, they have to make mental associations between the words formed by those sounds and images and facts to which they relate. On and on the challenge goes, and each step places demands on underlying mental skills such as auditory and visual processing, memory, attention, logic and reasoning, and processing speed.
If one or more of these skills is weak or underdeveloped, the student will struggle to learn. Even if other skills function at a high level, a single weak skill can thwart the learning process. This is the primary weakness of the “deficit performance model” alluded to above. A student might have an IQ score of 100. That score might represent the average of 5 measured cognitive skills. Four of those skills might be above average, and one might be seriously weak (leading to the average of 100). If the weak skill is essential to a specific learning task, the student will perform poorly in that task in spite of the fact that most skills function at above age level. “One size fits all” special education programs will often leave this student frustrated and un-helped.
Specific Learning Disabilities – Is There a Better Way to Treat Learning Disabilities?
There is! In students whose struggle is due to one or more weak cognitive skills, specific testing and training can change their capacity to learn.
LearningRx provides affordable cognitive skills testing and training to parents and students from all across the nation. We do not concentrate on qualifying or labeling students. Rather, we test and uncover specific cognitive skill weaknesses and customize training to attack and strengthen those weaknesses. For the student held back by cognitive weaknesses, the changes can be rapid and dramatic. Recent LearningRx graduates have averaged over 4-year gains in critical learning skills. Skill gains such as these often translate into impressive advances in academic performance, improved attitude, and increased self-esteem.
Take the First Step
The first step to determine if cognitive training could help you or your child is to take a skill assessment and evaluation. This will uncover and pinpoint the cause of the learning struggle. If a weak cognitive skill is to blame, treatment options can be discussed. LearningRx offers a comprehensive skill test at each of its centers. Key cognitive skills such as auditory processing, visual processing, processing speed, memory, logic and reasoning, and word attack skills are tested and measured. You then participate in a full evaluation of the test results and a consultation that outlines treatment and training options.
LearningRx draws from over 40 skill-specific training exercises to customize a training program especially for your child. Weak skills are strengthened, and the“specific learning disability” loses its power over you and your child. Not every student struggles because of weak cognitive skills, but for those who do, the appropriate training can transform their lives. Skill testing at LearningRx can reveal if this transformation might be a possibility for your child. Contact your localLearningRx Learning Center to schedule a test and evaluation.