Learning Disabilities and Intervention Methods

Explain the development and definition of the category, learning disability

In the United States, the category “learning disability” was developed in the field of education in the 1950s-1960s as a response of white middle-class parents to the failures of their children at school because of increased standards. It was important to distinguish these children from other students who represented minorities or had low achievements (Sleeter, 2010). The purpose of identifying this specific category of students with learning problems was to provide them with more opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge depending on their qualities and needs. These children became categorized as students who required assistance.

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A socio-cultural component in the development of this definition is directly related to such factors as social status and race. Thus, it is important to accentuate the fact that it was the initiative of while middle-class parents to label their children as having learning disabilities. The Association for Children with Learning Disabilities was organized in 1963, and the proposed definition included students who had speech impairment or problems with reading (Gottlieb, Alter, Gottlieb, & Wishner, 1994; Sleeter, 2010). However, the main challenge was in categorizing minority students who had problems with learning, and the following groups were proposed: mentally retarded students, slow learners, emotionally disturbed students, and culturally deprived students (Sleeter, 2010). Still, to prevent students with learning disabilities from providing them with inadequate education, it was also important to protect these students’ interests with the help of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1990) and the No Child Left Behind Act (2002) (Hallahan, Lloyd, Kauffman, Weiss, & Martinez, 2005). As a result of developing these acts, one more important challenge was identified: the development of appropriate interventions and curriculum modifications to address all students’ needs with the focus on attracting high-quality specialists to work with diverse children.

Choose an individual from the text, Life Stories (2001), create a mini-case study and intervention method. In the case study, discuss the learning disability, general characteristics of that learning disability, specific manifestations of the chosen individual, and an intervention method that would have been useful for that individual.

Lynn is a white female in her mid-thirties who suffers from such learning disability as dyslexia (Rodis, Garrod, & Boscardin, 2001). This learning disability is characterized by difficulties in reading and spelling words because of problems with recognizing or decoding letters and using phonemes. As a result, those students who have dyslexia cannot identify words quickly and read fluently (Swanson, Harris, & Graham, 2013). These problems in decoding words cause difficulties with comprehension and delays in the learning process.

Lynn’s experience associated with her learning disability can be discussed as rather problematic. Even though Lynn began to attend a class for students with learning disabilities early, she did not receive adequate assistance to improve her learning experience and decrease problems with reading. Lynn was not informed regarding her specific needs. Instead, the girl was labeled, and the situation created additional stress for her. Thus, Lynn could not decode and perceive information as quickly as it was expected, and she made progress only while working with a tutor who spent time explaining details to her. The intervention that can be proposed to Lynn should include the effective training of phonological awareness, the use of the detailed explanation regarding strategies of phonological decoding to help the girl recognize words, the provision of support in reading complex texts with the focus on strategies that can be used by students with dyslexia to improve fluency in reading (Hallahan et al., 2005).

Discuss the implications that the study of the brain has on our understanding of learning disabilities and educational practices.

Learning disabilities are discussed as difficulties caused by differences in brain functioning of students, and the study of the brain is important to provide educators with information on specific features of mental processes that can cause problems in learning (Hallahan et al., 2005). The detailed description of the physiological and cognitive processes associated with learning of students with disabilities can be used to develop evidence-based practices and strategies which are directly oriented to addressing specific learning problems because of providing students with individual-oriented instructions, strategies, tools, and assessments which can be applied to address their needs (Swanson et al., 2013). While receiving more knowledge about brain functions and processes observed when students learn, it is possible to determine differences in learning of different groups of students to prepare the most effective educational interventions.

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Identify a topic or an idea that has been the most surprising and/or challenged your viewpoint about learning disabilities.

One of the most important ideas that were identified during the research and review of the literature on learning disabilities is the connection between students’ vision of their learning disabilities and changes in their self-esteem. The review of life stories presented by Rodis et al. (2001) has indicated that many students with learning disabilities experience problems not only with their academic tasks but also with communication with their classmates. Their low self-esteem developed as a response to their problems with learning, and it caused even more problems associated with academic performance and personal interactions. To address the challenge of decreasing students’ self-esteem because of their difficulties in learning, it is important for educators to create positive environments in classrooms when students are not labeled, discriminated against, or ignored because of their problems (Morgan, Farkas, Hillemeier, & Maczuga, 2012; Swanson et al., 2013). Much attention should be paid to motivating and supporting those children who have problems to promote their interest in learning and related positive outcomes without affecting their self-confidence.


Gottlieb, J., Alter, M., Gottlieb, B. W., & Wishner, J. (1994). Special education in urban America: It’s not justifiable for many. The Journal of Special Education, 27(4), 453-465.

Hallahan, D. P., Lloyd, J. W., Kauffman, J. M., Weiss, M. P., & Martinez, E. A. (2005). Learning disabilities: Foundations, characteristics, and effective teaching (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Morgan, P. L., Farkas, G., Hillemeier, M. M., & Maczuga, S. (2012). Are minority children disproportionately represented in early intervention and early childhood special education? Educational Researcher, 41(9), 339-351.

Rodis, P., Garrod, A., & Boscardin, M. L. (Eds.). (2001). Learning disabilities and life stories. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Sleeter, C. (2010). Why is there learning disabilities? A critical analysis of the birth of the field in its social context. Disability Studies Quarterly, 30(2), 210-235.

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Swanson, H. L., Harris, K. R., & Graham, S. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of learning disabilities (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

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