Tag Archive for 'identification'

Thompson Road by Scott Wyatt

Because he thought I would be interested in reviewing it, Scott Wyatt, an author of contemporary fiction, sent me a copy of a new title called “Thompson Road.” The reasons he thought it was fitting for LD Blog will become clear as I describe the story.

Thompson Road follows adolescents who grow into adulthood in the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s-40s-50s. Mr.’s Wyatt’s choice of this time allows him to highlight many important ideas that touch on how people personally view learning disabilities (LD) and on issues about public policy in disabilities. But that’s not what Thompson Road is really about.
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The House should support Resolution 456

U.S. Representative Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, with the support of Representative Julia Brownley of California, introduced a resolution to the U.S. House of Representatives 10 January 2014 calling on “State and local educational agencies to recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed.” The resolution, which was foreshadowed by a kick-off event by the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus in November of 2013, is drawing support around the Internet, as it should, from diverse sources:

  • Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, noted advocates and researchers on dyslexia, posted a notice on their site, Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, and published a guest editorial in the influential political news source, The Hill calling for support of the resolution.
  • Pete and Pam Wright of Wrightslaw, the widely esteemed site for legal information about students with disabilities, lent their support to the effort, recommending constituents contact their representatives.
  • Over on Barto’s World (long-time connection with LD Blog), Amy Barto posted an entry pointing to the Yale Center’s and Wrightslaw’s pages.
  • Over on High Expectations Advocacy, Sandra Fitzpatrick posted a blog entry pointing to the Yale Center post and recommending that people contact their own representatives to encourage those legislators to support the resolution.
  • Joan Brennan, at Help for Struggling Readers provided a message of support including some useful links (along with some links to her own product).

Dyslexia is the most common reason that students are identified as having learning disabilities in the US. It is, indeed, a problem that deserves very careful consideration and systematic, evidence-based treatment. Even though some may glamorize it and others may ignore it, I agree that the most appropriate course of action is to recognize it and empower schools (and others) to address it effectively and humanely.

Readers interested in obtaining a PDF copy of the full resolution can download one.

RTI can’t stop parents from requesting evaluations

Given the continuing interest in response to instruction (or intervention), it’s important to remember that parents can still request that their child be evaluated for special education. Thanks to organizations such as the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA), parents can be well-informed about how and why to pursue this avenue when they have a child who needs help. Just because a school is using an RTI process, that’s not sufficient reason to delay an eligibility evaluation. The RTI data may be a part of the evidence in determining eligibility, but shouldn’t be the sole criterion.

I’m no lawyer so this is not legal advice, but as I understand it, schools cannot use RTI to stand in the way of a parent’s request. LDA published a helpful position paper on this matter in 2013, and it is available for free.

Psychiatrist explains new diagnosis in 50 sec

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) posted a video of Susan E. Swedo, M.D. and Chair of the APA’s work group that developed the revised definition of “learning disorder” for APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5), explaining that the new definition will allow psychiatrists to use a broad classification and then focus on specific characteristics of individual cases. You can watch this 50-sec video of Dr. Swedo explaining not very much about what’s been a pretty controversial decision.

I would encourage folks not to work themselves into too much of a lather about the APA’s decision to alter its definition of “learning disorders.” The psychiatrists’ definition of these problems doesn’t have much effect in the USA on the legal definition of LD that influences decisions about services in schools. The APA (not, by the way, to be confused with the American Psychological Association, aka “APA”) uses its definition for the purposes of classification and (importantly) billing insurance companies. The diagnostic and statistical manuals are designed to be used by “a wide range of health and mental health professionals, including psychiatrists and other physicians, psychologists, social workers, nurses, occupational and rehabilitation therapists, and counselors” (see the DSM site), not by educators.

For folks wanting to learn more on this topic, the Learning Disabilities Association of America posted a brief document in the summer of 2012 in which Larry Silver summarized background and updated information about DSM and learning disorders in DSM-5.

Subtyping LD

Have you been hearing a lot about subtypes of LD lately? Perhaps it’s just that I’ve been especially alert to it, but it seems I’ve heard a lot of mentions about subtypes of Learning Disabilities in the last few weeks. I want to write a longer, more thorough discussion of the topic, but I’ve found myself repeating a few foundational comments, so I thought I ought to post them here and let others have a go at them.

First, the idea of subtypes of LD is essentially a given. It has to do with the heterogeneity of LD. Because LD is essentially an umbrella category for a diverse array of learning disabilities (note the plural), there are bound to be subgroups. Some students will have problems primarily with reading, some primarily with arithmetic and mathematics, some with writing, others with combinations of these. That makes for lots of subgroups right there. That is, one could start with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia!
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Testing fraud of a different sort

In a puzzling case of a student who appears to have had problems throughout the primary grades and did not get help until fourth grade, Liz Ditz asks the question, How Often Does This Happen? Teacher accused of testing fraud to avoid special education referral for her student. Not until the parents had pushed for years were the child’s problems recognized. Was this a well-meaning, but misguided teacher? Has anti-LD sentiment become so strong that folks cheat to keep kids from having the label?

Fletcher paper about identifying LD

The RTI Action Network published a paper by Jack Fletcher about identification of Learning Disabilities in the context of response to instruction (or intervention; RTI). Professor Fletcher, who has been a leading proponent of RTI since the 1990s, makes a strong case for the importance of examining instruction as a part of determining eligibility for LD services.
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Is LD viable?

Panelists for DLD showcase 2010 in Nashville
L-to-R: T. Scruggs (foreground), D. Fuchs, M. Gerber,
and N. Zigmond

At the behest of Rollanda O’Connor, Dan Hallahan gathered four informed people—Naomi Zigmond, Tom Scruggs, Mike Gerber, and Doug Fuchs—to address this question: “The LD Construct: Can it be Saved? Is it Worth Saving?” The discussion, which was held at the annual international convention of the Council for Exceptional Children, as a product of the Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD). Of course, I’m biased (I am compensated as the executive director for DLD), but I have to say that this was a top-notch event.

These advocates agreed that there really is something to LD. They argued clearly and effectively that educators need to reconsider the construct of LD; focus on individual students needs; the needs of those students can (in fact) be discriminated from others who have low achievement; that there’s lots of good to response to instruction (or intervention), but it’s neither likely to address all the learning problems students experience nor identify those who need additional services; and that those students may need instruction that is radically different from what they can get in general education settings.

There’s lots more to what they had to say, and I hope TeachingLD can capture and disseminate it. If so, I’ll relate it here.

More on IQ and reading disabilities

Deficits in reading performance may differ in etiology depending on the IQ of the individuals who have the deficits. According to an article in Behavior Genetics, Professor Sally Wadsworth and colleagues confirmed previous research showing that there is a stronger genetic element in the reading deficits of children with higher IQs (mean = 108.97 ± 6.71) than those with lower IQ (mean = 82.85 ± 6.40). The heritability for the former group is 0.75 ± 0.12, but for the latter it is 0.50 ± 0.10.
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Does RtI reduce numbers of children in special education?

In an article slated to appear in Remedial and Special Education, Jeanne Wanzek and Sharon Vaughn reported that widely popular three-tiered approach to addressing did not significantly reduce the number and percentage of students identified for special education across seven elementary schools. Their study, which is limited to the response to instruction or intervention in the primary and early elementary grades and focused primarily on academic intervention, revealed no significant reduction in identification of children as having Learning Disabilities, even though this group would be the most likely to benefit from such prevention efforts. Similarly, there were no differences in the proportion of students identified for special education according to ethnic background.
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