Historically children who did not perform as expected academically were evaluated and often identified as having a Learning Disability (LD).
Presently the construct of LD and the many definitions that serve as conceptual framework for their identification and treatment continue to be frequently misunderstood. The field is beset by fierce disagreements about the definition of LDs, diagnostic criteria, assessment practices, treatment procedures and educational policies. However, there seems to be a consensus that, “Learning Disabilities is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulty in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities. Since 1945 there have been many different systems of identification and classification for LD, each with their own set of difficulties. The most recent model of classification of LDs and the one adopted at the Reed Institute,is an integrative one, explaining the condition from academic, neurobiological and cognitive perspectives. Based on this model, the approach to assessment is different from traditional test- to-diagnosis approaches that have dominated the assessment domain for many years. In this new approach to identification, LDs are not “diagnosed” on the basis of a battery of psychometric tests administered on a single occasion. Rather, LDs are identified only after a specific attempt is made to systematically instruct the person. This means that the traditional test-to-diagnosis approach can, at best, identify the person a being “at risk” for LDs. But a single assessment will not lead to a reliable identification if the approach is only based on cutoff scores!
Our philosophy at the Reed Institute is that “The goal of any evaluation should be to intervene as soon as possible with a person who is struggling to achieve”. Those who are identified as being “at risk” should be offered intense, multi-tiered, evidence- based interventions. Throughout the intervention period, these individuals should have their progress monitored with Curriculum Based measurements (CBM) as well as standardized, norm-based assessment tools. This approach, central to a Response to Intervention model (RTI), prioritizes a treat-and-test model of LDs as opposed to the traditional test-to-diagnosis approach.
Advances in clinical and scientific research have shaped how we view and treat pupils struggling with learning. Albert Einstein’s learning challenges is a great reminder to us that people with LD’s have tremendous potential and are capable of achieving greatness. With appropriate assessment and comprehensive intervention plan, more and more pupils struggling with learning disabilities can overcome their disability and experience academic achievement.