Perspectives on Learning Disabilities: Biological, Cognitive, Contextual

By Robert J. Sternberg; Louise Spear-Swerling | Go to book overview
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7
Learning Disabilities: The Roads We Have Traveled and the Path to the Future

Linda S. Siegel

Learning disabilities are defined as significant difficulties in reading, spelling, arithmetic, and/or writing in spite of average or above-average intelligence. Learning disabilities have traditionally been defined by a diagnosis of exclusion; to be considered learning disabled, individuals must have average or above-average IQ test scores, have had access to adequate instruction, and not have had neurological problems or significant emotional disturbances that might be considered to be responsible for their difficulties in acquiring skills. For over 100 years, we have known about the existence of learning disabilities in some form, but often it seems as if we have made little progress in our understanding of this complex problem.

In this chapter, I discuss where we have traveled in our attempt to understand learning disabilities, the problems, the pitfalls, and the dead ends. I will provide (1) arguments and evidence that the identification of learning disabilities has been made an unnecessarily complex and complicated process, (2) a discussion of the major types of learning disabilities, (3) an outline of the role of IQ tests in the identification of learning disabilities, (4) suggestions for how we can help individuals with learning disabilities, and (5) some directions for the future.

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The research described in this chapter was supported by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. I would like to thank Kim Kozuki for secretarial assistance.

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