According to Cortiella (2013), a learning disability can be described as a disorder in one or several of the fundamental processes that are a prerequisite for comprehension in using language either spoken or written. The disorder may manifest itself in the form of an unsatisfactory capability to pay attention through listening or thinking. In addition, the disability may be visible by the inability to satisfactorily read, write, spell or carry out mathematical calculation. Disorders that are included in this definition also encompass terms that relate to conditions such as disabilities in perception, injuries to the brain, marginal brain dysfunctions, dyslexia and developmental aphasia (Wong et a., 2011). On the other hand, some disorders do not fall in the category of definitions of learning disabilities. They include learning problems that are caused by disabilities in sight, hearing or movement. In addition, learning problems due to mental retardation, emotional turmoil, or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantages are not also encompassed in the definition.
However, the federal definition that is used by most state authorities does not entirely take the same route as the one described above. The federal definition is based on three premises to categorize a student as having a learning disability (Fletcher, 2012). Firstly, the student should express an extreme disparity between their intellectual ability and academic achievement. Secondly, the student difficulties expressed should not be because of any other recognized condition that can be the origin of learning problems. Lastly, the student should have the need for special education services (Fletcher, 2012).
The system has been faulted by many researchers as flawed not fundamentally, but on the ground. Many students are wrongly diagnosed as having learning disabilities while, on the other hand, they are victims of poor instruction (Fletcher, 2012). This not only results on an increase in the need for special education but also possibly students stuck in the wrong system keeping them from achieving to the best of their potential.
Identifying Disabilities and Assessment
Assessment is used to refer to the obtaining of data on the proficiency of children in the core skills (Wong, 2011). The data collection methods include different perspectives using standardized and informal instruments and procedures. These processes are utilized together to produce comprehensive quantitative and qualitative data on an individual student. The product of constant observing of development is used as a part of individual and classroom assessments (Wong, 2011). A combination of these sources of assessment data can and should be used to enable increased accuracy of the assessment and evaluation of an individual students performance.
Several tools are used in the identification and assessment of students with disability to take required measures as stated by the law (Harris & Swanson, 2013). Firstly, the standardized intelligence and achievement test is taken to measure the disparity between the level of achievement and general intellectual ability. Secondly, the curriculum-based measurement is used to determine the progress of students aptitude in the essential skills that contribute to success in school (Harris & Swanson, 2013).. Thirdly, the direct daily management measure is specifically targeted at observing and documenting the childs performance each time a specific skill is taught (Harris & Swanson, 2013).. Lastly, the criterion reference test is used to relate a child's score with a pre-determined standard.
However, some researchers fault the assessment techniques that are currently in use for various reasons. One opposition argues that norms of different standardized tests have been created by use of the tests on different groups of students (Wong, 2011). Consequently, they cannot be accurately compared on similar scales. In addition, these tests are doubted for their credibility due to the high probability of cultural and linguistic bias in reflecting the competencies and skills of students who are recent immigrants.
Some researchers further argue that the measurement of IQ is not pertinent in the assessment of students with learning disabilities (Harris & Swanson, 2013).. Their argument is because core deficits related to learning disabilities are not reliant on the IQ of a student. For instance, difficulty in processing certain sounds that are associated with reading disability. Consequently, a child with this impairment and a below normal IQ score would not be given special education using the existing criterion (Harris & Swanson, 2013).
In addition, many children are wrongly diagnosed with learning disabilities due to the lack of consistency in the characterization of learning disabilities that highlights the inherent and life-long nature of the condition. Consequently, many a time, children with other needs are labeled as children with learning disabilities (Fletcher, 2012). For instance, the social environment may be lacking in willingness to understand, accept, and put up with ordinary variations in learning and behavior. This is especially evident where children may not have learning disabilities but need alternative instructional methods, but the systems do not recognize and make it possible for such to occur. This may be due to inadequate staff to take care of exceptional individuals or incompetency among available staff.
In addition, there may be a wrong assumption that less than average achievement is an indication of a specific learning disability. This assumption together with the belief that only quantitative formulas are effective in diagnosing learning disabilities leads to wrong conclusions in handling children with no learning disabilities but are in need of special attention.
The achievement deficits that are identified in children may either be due to neurological impairment or poor instruction. However, given the current assessment and evaluation criteria, it is undoubtedly difficult to establish the specific cause. The formulas used in the assessment and evaluation of these deficits have been cited by some researchers as flawed. They do not comprehensively cover the scope of the matter in identification and diagnosis of the deficits. Consequently, there is need to look further into the mechanism of diagnosis and evaluation of the students to correctly establish those with learning disabilities.
Cortiella, C. (2011). The state of learning disabilities. New York, NY: National Center for
Fletcher, J. M. (2012). Classification and identification of learning disabilities. Learning about
learning disabilities, 1-25.
Kamhi, A. G., & Catts, H. W. (2012). Language and reading disabilities.
Swanson, H. L., & Harris, K. R. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of learning disabilities. Guilford
Wong, B. (Ed.). (2011). Learning about learning disabilities. Academic Press.
Wong, B., Graham, L., Hoskyn, M., & Berman, J. (Eds.). (2011). The ABCs of learning
disabilities. Academic Press.
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