In an otherwise very important and impressive story, reporter Perry Stein of the Washington (DC, US) Post mis-uses “learning disability” as a generic term. Ms. Stein’s article is about a judge holding that the Washington DC public schools have failed to conduct appropriate child find efforts for preschool children with disabilities. Near the end of the article Ms. Stein added this paragraph about an expert’s commentary:
Judith Sandalow, the executive director of the Children’s Law Center, celebrated the decision and said she constantly sees children who are several grades behind in school whom the city has not yet identified as having a learning disability.
There’s that too-familiar confusion of the category of learning disability with the superordinate group of individuals with disabilities who need special education, a group that includes autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, mental retardation (i.e., intellectual disabilities), multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairments, specific learning disability, speech or language impairments, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment including blindness (Code of Federal Regulations 34 B III 300 A §300.8.)
Was it Ms. Sandalow who used “learning disability” as a generic or did Ms. Stein attribute it to her? Either way, it’s a mistake.
Nevertheless, if one is concerned about special education, I recommend this article. It appears to me to show another example of how schools are failing to provide appropriate and needed services. There is an irony that the case about which Ms. Stein wrote continues to be heard that in the same city where Mills v. Board of Education was contested. In 1972, Mills was one of the cases that led to the founding of the very laws that this judge is seeking to enforce almost 45 years later.