1) Carol, the field of “learning disabilities” has been with us for many years. What do you feel are the current issues in identification?
The field of learning disabilities has made great progress over the years, including better assessments and the use of MRI brain imaging, allowing for earlier and more definitive identification of a child’s learning disabilities. Further, research into specific programs or therapeutic strategies for intervention, have greatly enhanced the ability to more closely match the learning profile of students, thus reducing the unnecessary and time consuming attempts to find the appropriate remediation tools.
However, as I see it, there is often a disconnect between educational and clinical assessments, diagnostic identification and qualifying for assistance. Since I live in California, I can be specific to my state, although most other states follow similar patterns.
First, in CA, in order to be considered as having a learning disability, there must be a processing disorder coupled with a discrepancy between the student’s measured cognitive skills and academic achievement. Secondly, even though many districts are employing the Response to Intervention model before moving to assessment, a process which can provide earlier needed research-based assistance, those services may not necessarily match the student’s learning skill pattern. Thirdly, the educational regulatory mandate for qualifying for special education services often takes precedent over understanding a student’s learning style. Thus, a rich and diversified team assessment may never be thoroughly utilized to provide teachers with the research-based classroom tools necessary to help a struggling student.