Research on Learning Disabilities in American Educational Process

Understanding learning disorders are important because the public frequently confuse them with conditions such as attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder, autism, intellectual disabilities, deafness and blindness, as evidenced by a recent surveys conducted by researchers. Recent empirical data indicates that the number of school-age children with learning disabilities who receive federally-authorized special education services has declined by 14 percent over the past decade. In this research paper I also include state-by-state information about the number of students with learning disabilities.

The argument I present in this paper corresponds to the data I collected that represents the fact that while students with learning disabilities are spending the majority of their school day in the general education classroom, they struggle to make adequate gains toward grade level standards. Research on Learning Disabilities and the Effects they have on the American Educational Process Learning disabilities are not problems with intelligence or motivation.

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Students with learning disabilities aren’t lazy or dumb. In fact, most are just as smart as everyone else. Their brains are simply wired differently. As a result of this difference, it affects how they receive and process information. Learning disabilities look very different from one student to another. One student may struggle with reading and spelling, while another loves books but can’t understand math. Still another may have difficulty understanding what others are saying or communicating out loud.

These problems are very different, but they are all learning disorders. Basically, learning disabilities are classifications including several areas of functioning in which certain students have difficulty learning in a typical manner, usually caused by unknown factors. According to what experts know about learning disorders, Learning disabilities arise from neurological differences in brain structure and function and affect the brain’s ability to store, processor communicate information.

However, it remains unclear what creates the neurological disorders that lead to learning disabilities, heredity is considered a major factor because learning disabilities seem to occur within members of the same families. Moreover, other suggested possible contributions include pre-natal and birth problems a list that covers illness or injury, drug and alcohol use during pregnancy, low birth weight, oxygen deprivation and premature or prolonged labor as well as childhood experiences of traumatic injuries, severe nutritional deprivation, and exposure to poisonous substances such as lead.

Interestingly, there is a higher incidence of learning disabilities among people living in poverty apparently because poor people are more likely to be exposed to poor nutrition, ingested and environmental toxins and other risk factors during early and critical stages of development. Learning disabilities are both real and permanent, and there is a growing body of data to support neurobiological causes including new evidence documenting that families are genetically linked to learning disabilities.

Unfortunately, students with disabilities suffer from low self-esteem, fall into juvenile delinquency or fail academically because their LD is not discovered and appropriate help provided until it’s too late to prevent these and other psychological problems from happening. Learning disabilities commonly fall into three different categories: dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and dyslexia. Moreover, other learning disabilities include those disabilities that affect memory, social skills, and executive functions such as deciding to begin a task.

The most prevalent learning disability is dyslexia, which where students have trouble understanding written language. Educational experts have learned the neurological basis of dyslexia also known as reading disability or reading disorder by using separate techniques to measure blood flow and electrical activity in the brain. They discovered that people with dyslexia do not decipher printed words in the same way that non-dyslexic readers do. Dyscalculia is a learning disability that deals with difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic.

It is akin to dyslexia and includes difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, learning mathematic facts, and a number of other related symptoms. Math disabilities can also occur as the result of some types of brain injury, in which case the proper term is “acalculia”, to distinguish it from dyscalculia which is of innate, genetic or developmental origin. Dysgraphia is a deficiency in the ability to write primarily in terms of handwriting, but also in terms of coherence.

This is a complete loss of ability to write and spell when writing. Students with this learning disorder cannot transform graphemes in written language. Both occur regardless of the ability to read and is not due to intellectual impairment. Dysgraphia is a transcription disability, meaning that it is a writing disorder associated with impaired handwriting, orthographic coding, and finger sequencing. It often overlaps with other learning disabilities such as speech impairment, attention deficit disorder, or developmental coordination disorder.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, dysgraphia is characterized as a learning disability in the category of written expression when one’s writing skills are below those expected given a person’s age measured through intelligence and age appropriate education. However, this source (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is not clear in whether or not writing refers only to the motor skills involved in writing, or if it also includes orthographic skills and spelling.

The word dysgraphia comes from the Greek words “dys” meaning “impaired” and “graphia” meaning “making letter forms by hand”. Reliable information on the numbers of American students who have learning disabilities is scarce. While states are required to report on the number of public school students receiving special education due to learning disabilities however, surveys based on parent or self-reporting are the only source of information about the prevalence of learning disabilities across all ages. The most recent data comes from the 2005 U. S.

Survey of Income and Program Participation which is a sample of the U. S. civilian non-institutionalized population. The U. S. Survey of Income and Program Participation is sponsored by the U. S. Census Bureau to collect source and amount of income, labor force information, program participation and eligibility data, and general demographic characteristics to measure the effectiveness of existing federal, state, and local programs.

The U. S. Survey of Income Program Participation indicates the learning disabilities prevalence rate among the U. S. population ages 6 and older to be 1. 8%, totaling 4. 67 million Americans. This represents roughly one percent of all those reporting some level of disability 18. 7% of the population. The U. S Survey of Income Program Participation found a parent-reported learning disabilities rate of 3% among school-age children (2. 4% ages 6-11 and 3. 4% ages 12-17). This is slightly less than the rate reported by schools, which is just fewer than 4% of the resident school-age population and over 5% of public school enrollment.

Moreover, it found rates of learning disabilities among adults range from 2. 7% of the population ages 18-24 to as low as . 4% for those over age 85. Surprisingly, males are much more likely to have acknowledged learning disabilities than females. The ratio is particularly high among school-age children with almost twice as many boys than girls reported by family members as having learning disabilities (3. 9 % vs. 2. 0 %). Among adults, the ratio is smaller 1. 8% male vs. 1. 5% female among those ages 18-64 and . 8% male vs. .5% female among those 65 and older.

In 2009, there were 2. million American public school students approximately 5% of the total public school enrollment identified with learning disabilities. There are four educational laws aimed to create a boundary of assistance for students with learning disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees each child a free, appropriate public education tailored to his or her individual needs, as well as the right of the children and their parents or guardians to timely evaluation, access to all meetings and paperwork, transition planning and related services.

IDEA specifies that children with any of 13 possible disabling conditions, including learning disabilities are eligible for these services. Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is the nation’s main federal education law. First passed in 1965 as part of President Johnson’s war on poverty, it now affects all public school students from kindergarten through grade 12. ESEA’s major strength is that it compels schools to meet rigorous standards for educational content and student achievement.

Under the ESEA, schools must provide data on overall student progress as well as progress made by groups such as students with disabilities. Discrimination against people with disabilities in federally funded programs and activities is prohibited under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). While this civil rights law doesn’t fund programs, it does permit the withdrawal of funds from programs that fail to comply with the law. Students with a physical or mental impairment that substantially restricts one or more major life activities are eligible for services under Section 504.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is another civil rights measure that protects people with disabilities from discrimination in schools, the workplace and other environments. However, unlike Section 504, the ADA is not a funding mechanism and it protects people who have a physical or mental impairment that heavily restricts one or more major life activities. Due to the fact that learning is considered such an activity under the ADA, students served under IDEA also are covered by this law.

According to empirical data though most students with LD receive most of their instruction in general education classes, only 60% of students with LD have general education teachers who receive any information about their needs, indicating a need for more teacher training on the characteristics and instructional strategies essential to success for these students. Only about half of all students have teachers who receive advice from special educators or other staff on how to meet those needs.

In conclusion, as the nature of learning disabilities continues to be better understood and the particular needs of those with these neurological differences are better defined, success in all aspects of life should become more achievable for a larger number of Americans with learning disabilities. The current level at which students with learning disabilities access and succeed in postsecondary education is unacceptably low. Both research and public policy must continue to support such advances.


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  2. Fletcher, J. M. , Lyon, G. R. , Barnes, M. , Stuebing, K. K. , Francis, D. J. , Olson, R. K. , et al. (2002). Classification of learning disabilities: An evidence-based evaluation.
  3. Fuchs, D. , Mock, D. , Morgan, P, & Young, C. (2003). Responsiveness-to-intervention: Definitions, evidence, and implications for the learning disabilities construct. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 18, 157–171.
  4. Gersten, R. , Jordan, N. C. , & Flojo, J. R. (2005). Early identification and interventions for students with mathematics difficulties. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 38, 293–304.
  5. Kaufman, A. S. , & Kaufman, N. L. (2001). Specific learning disabilities and difficulties in children and adolescents: Psychological assessment and evaluation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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Research on Learning Disabilities in American Educational Process. (2016, Oct 24). Retrieved from