Perspectives on Learning Disabilities: Biological, Cognitive, Contextual

By Robert J. Sternberg; Louise Spear-Swerling | Go to book overview

12
Epilogue: Toward an Emerging Consensus About Learning Disabilities
Robert J. SternbergJust what does it mean to say that John--or Jean or Jaime or anyone else--is "learning disabled"? The answer to this question proves to be maddeningly complex. Not only are there disagreements as to what learning disabled means, there are disagreements as to whether the concept is even meaningful.Despite the disagreements, there is a surprising degree of emerging consensus among experts in the field regarding a number of key issues. My goal in this epilogue is to argue that the field is progressing toward some major points of consensus even if it has not fully converged toward a unified view of learning disabilities as biological, psychological, and societal phenomena. At the same time, I will mention some of the main points of disagreement.
Points of General Agreement
Here are what I view as 15 key points of broad consensus.
1. Learning disabilities represent a diversity of distinct phenomena, not a single one. Although learning disability might sound like a unitary phenomenon, the consensus of expert theoreticians, researchers, and practitioners is that it is not. We do children and adults alike a disservice simply by lumping them into a category of learning disabled (LD). Experts disagree as to the exact number of learning disabilities and even as to their exact identities. It seems clear, for example, that mathematical disability is separate from reading disability and that reading disability can manifest itself in different forms regardless of whether it is unitary in a biological
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Preparation of this chapter was supported in part by grant R206A70001 from the Javits Program of the U. S. Office of Educational Research and Improvement.

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