Learning Disabilities in Perspective
Richard K. Wagner Tamara Garon
Without question, this is a time of remarkable progress in understanding the nature of learning disabilities in general and of reading disabilities in particular. Researchers appear to be converging on possible genetic loci of a common form of specific reading disability. The results of longitudinal studies of reading acquisition make it possible to identify children at risk for the development of reading disabilities with considerable accuracy and then to begin interventions even prior to the onset of reading instruction. The excitement at conferences devoted to reading disabilities is nearly palpable.
The purpose of this chapter is to attempt to place this progress in perspective and to consider its implications for an account of learning disabilities. We begin by considering competing analogies and perspectives that seek to define the fundamental nature of reading disability. Next we review several behavioral markers of learning disabilities that have been widely held previously. Then we turn to a discussion of the behavioral marker that is the cause of much of the recent excitement, namely, a deficit in phonological processing. Finally, we discuss implications of research on phonological processing for understanding the nature of reading disabilities and for application of this understanding to diagnosis and treatment.
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