Our Labeled Children: What Every Parent and Teacher Needs to Know about Learning Disabilities

Our Labeled Children: What Every Parent and Teacher Needs to Know about Learning Disabilities

Our Labeled Children: What Every Parent and Teacher Needs to Know about Learning Disabilities

Our Labeled Children: What Every Parent and Teacher Needs to Know about Learning Disabilities

Synopsis

Twenty percent of all school-aged children in this country have been labeled Learning Disabled. But what is a genuine learning disability? How does it differ from garden-variety poor learning? How can we more accurately assess and then teach to individual learning strengths instead of merely pinpointing learning weaknesses? In this passionately argued yet clear-headed book, internationally acclaimed cognitive psychologist Robert Sternberg and research scientist Elena Grigorenko tackle these controversial issues, urging that we understand the full range of factors that contribute to learning disabilities (and sometimes to their misdiagnosis) in order to improve the American educational and diagnostic systems.

From the biological bases of dyslexia and other disabilities, to the tests that do and do not accurately assess learning abilities, to the social and educational pressures that contribute to misdiagnosis, Our Labeled Children clearly outlines the issues that concern both parents and teachers, ultimately pointing to clear strategies for improving our system to help children with all manner of learning problems.

Excerpt

Some labels reflect biological realities. For example, the "male" and "female" labels reflect patterns of chromosomes (XY for males, XX for females) that are determined at conception. Other labels reflect social realities. Labels such as "American" or "Russian" reflect no biological reality at all, but are ways societies have developed of describing people. The argument of this book is that the label "learning disability" (LD) is neither purely biological nor purely social, but refers to an interaction between the two factors. Whether someone is labeled as having an LD depends not just on the person's biological makeup or social situation, but on what amounts to a lottery that throws a certain biological makeup into a certain social milieu. Whether a given individual will be labeled as having an LD varies with time and place. The labeling process varies not only across years or countries: It can vary from one school district to another within a single state or province! The LD label, therefore, reflects an interaction between a certain biological makeup and the environment. One is not limited to a single lottery ticket. A parent unhappy with the way his or her child is or is not labeled in one place potentially can change the label by moving to another location, or by seeking an alternative diagnosis in the same location.

The story of learning disabilities is a story not only about a set of learning disorders, but also about individuals, families, schools, and even courtrooms in distress. The effects and im-

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