Handbook of Psychological Services for Children and Adolescents

By Jan N. Hughes; Annette M. La Greca et al. | Go to book overview

20
Psychological Services for Children
with Learning Disabilities
MARIBETH GETTINGER
REBECCA KOSCIK

Definition and Prevalence of Learning Disability

Learning disability (LD) is the term used to describe a handicapping condition that interferes with a person's ability to store, process, or produce information. Learning disability affects both children and adults and results in a gap between an individual's “true” potential and his or her actual performance, leading to significant academic and social difficulties. The most obvious indication of a learning disability is academic failure, or achievement that is significantly lower than expected based on all other information about the person. That is, the low performance of individuals with LD is not due to below-average intelligence; visual, hearing, or motor impairment; or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

Many definitions of “learning disability” have been written over the past 20 years. The statutory definition of learning disability included in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; U.S. Department of Education, 1997) states that the disability is a “disorder in one or more basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations” (p. 149). Despite disagreement in the field about diagnostic criteria and evaluation procedures, there is some agreement about major definitional components of learning disability. The first is the existence of what is called an “abilityachievement discrepancy.” For individuals with LD, academic and learning problems persist in spite of normal or average intelligence. Although a discrepancy between an intelligence quotient (IQ) and achievement has been the major

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