Specific Learning Disability

SPECIFIC LEARNING DISABILITY is a Federal Category under which children may be eligible for Special Education Services.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines a Specific Learning Disability as 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 do mathematical calculations. The term shall not include children who have 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.

Because children with learning disabilities now account for over one-half of all children receiving special services, many experts believe that the majority of identified children are victims of poor teaching. IDEA 2004 changed the manner of identifying children with such learning disabilities from a discrepancy (“wait-to-fail”) model to a Response to Intervention (RTI) model. Schools shall, therefore, no longer be required to take into consideration whether or not a child has a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability (whether it be in oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skills, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation or mathematical reasoning, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia). Instead, schools are strongly urged to use a process that determines if the child responds to scientific, research-based intervention.

If a child does not respond to instruction that is effective for the vast majority of children — does not show responsiveness to a series of interventions — there is something different about the child that is causing the non-responsiveness. Under the RTI model, that child is considered to have a learning disability and to be in need of special instruction.

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