Case Studies of High-Ability Students with Learning Disabilities Who Have Achieved

By Reis, Sally M.; Neu, Terry W. et al. | Exceptional Children, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview

Case Studies of High-Ability Students with Learning Disabilities Who Have Achieved


Reis, Sally M., Neu, Terry W., McGuire, Joan M., Exceptional Children


Little research has been conducted on gifted students with learning disabilities, although Davis and Rimm (1985) estimated that there are somewhere between 120,000 and 100,000 gifted students with disabilities in American schools. Prater and Minner (1986) suggested that the majority of these students have learning disabilities. Minner (1990) found that classroom teachers, including teachers of gifted students, "may hold some rather stereotypical notions about learning disabled and/or gifted students which, in turn, may cause them not even to consider such children in a program for gifted youngsters". Whitmore and Maker (1985) summarized their analysis of this population in this way:

Intellectually gifted individuals with specific

learning disabilities are the most misjudged,

misunderstood, and neglected segment of the

student population and the community. Teachers,

counselors, and others are inclined to overlook

signs of intellectual giftedness and to focus

attention on such deficits as poor spelling, reading,

and writing. Expectations for academic

achievement generally are inaccurate--either too

high and unrealistically positive or too low and

discouraging of high aspirations. It is not uncommon

for gifted students with learning disabilities

to be told that college study is

inappropriate for them, that professional careers

will be unattainable, and thee jobs requiring

only mechanical or physical abilities are more

fitting to their abilities. Without equal opportunity

to try, these individuals may be denied access

to appropriate educational and professional

career opportunities.

Although little research exists, many articles and books have been published about gifted students with learning disabilities (LD). Much of what is written about this population is descriptive, but in one database study, Baum and Owen (1988) found that gifted students with learning disabilities have unique characteristics related to persistence and individual interests and possess lower academic self-efficacy than their peers who are not identified as gifted with learning disabilities. Self-efficacy, according to Bandura (1986), is the self-perception that a person can organize and carry out some action. Baum and Owen further found that 36% of the students in their study who were identified as possessing a learning disability simultaneously demonstrated behaviors associated with giftedness such as advanced achievement, high levels of task commitment, and creativity (Renzulli, 1978; 1986). In a more recent study, Olenchak investigated the effects of the use of a "highly structured, personally tailored enrichment program" (Olenchak, 1995) on the attitudes, self-concepts, and creative productivity of 168 elementary students who are gifted/LD. After participating in a year-long program based on The Schoolwide Enrichment Model (Renzulli, 1994; Renzulli & Reis, 1985), students demonstrated significant positive results relative to attitudes toward school. Approximately 25% of the students in this study initiated independent or small group studies, known as Type III investigations (Renzulli, 1977). Students who participated in the enrichment program, which included an organized, regular sequence of enrichment experiences, demonstrated statistically significant gains in self-concept between the pretest and posttest administration of the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale (Piers, 1984).

The Interaction of Giftedness and Learning Disabilities

Educational research has expanded in recent years with the study of various special populations, and new theories of intelligence (Gardner, 1983; Sternberg, 1981) revealed that the potentiality of some students may not be measured accurately by current measurement instruments. …

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