Specific Learning Disorders (SLD)

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The National Centre for Learning Disabilities defines Specific Learning Disorders (SLD) as disorders characterized by comprehending difficulties in reading, writing, arithmetic, or mathematical reasoning abilities during an individual's formal years of schooling. (2014, p.2). Their definition goes beyond what IDEA provides. Furthermore, they realize that indications of SLD should include difficulties reading, illegible written expression, and issues recalling numbers and mathematical logic (NCLD 2014, p.2). Both reading, written expression, and mathematics impairments are classified as SLD deficiencies in the DSM-5. The specific learning disabilities in written expression include spelling accuracy challenge, grammar, and punctuation (Medina 2017). Others are multiple spelling challenges and excessively poor handwriting (Indiana.edu 2006, 19). SLDs in mathematics include possible challenges in number sensing, memorization of arithmetic ideas and facts, attention deficits to mathematics, poor reasoning and accurate calculation of mathematical expressions. Moreover, the challenges in reading SLD may include shortfalls word reading accurateness, reading fluency and comprehension of the reading.(Medina, 2017). According to DSM-5 word reading disorders can be classified as Dyslexia, while mathematics comprehension disorders can be called Dyscalculia. Written expression deficit is called Dysgraphia (NCLD 2014, p.4). Therefore this paper aims to look at them with special emphasis on theoretical models of assessment and rehabilitation of children with learning disability in reading.

There are several causal models in the understanding of SLDs in modern day literature. The majority of them focus on the level of the disease. The most common are graphical and structural models. The graphical model encodes knowledge about a given causal model in a graph and this helps to explain the cause of a given disorder (Petersen & Van der Laan, 2015).The hierarchical Bayesian model is another most common model that is used to explain the causal features of students with learning disabilities. It locates issues to do with word learning, visual as well as social learning. It locates knowledge about two most fundamental issues in the cognition of a child. The first is how abstract knowledge is acquired and ho the same knowledge is applied to encourage subsequent education. (Kemp et al., 2010, p.52).

Intervention Programs and Commercial Published Material for Children with SLD

The most recent publication of IDEA emphasized the need to have Response to Intervention (RTI) in the majority of schools. From the survey conducted in 2011 about 72 percent of schools in the US were implementing this approach in 2009 and by the same year, 94 percent of schools were doing the same. From the 94%, 24% of them were doing it on a permanent basis.64% of the school indicated RTI application for the process of determining eligibility for special education in kids across the nation. The response to survey adoption results of 2010 is available publicly on the website of RTI (NCLD 2014, p.34).

Although this issue might be true there are real challenges associated with this approach especially with regard to clarity on identification procedures. The problem has attracted the attention of the US department of Special education programs where there was a need for schools to use the RTI procedures for the good of the kids and not to delay or deny evaluation of students across the country. In reality, it is evident that RTI requires more clarity in the standardization the process of identifying Learning Disabilities. There should be a systematic approach in which kids from across the nation are identified as eligible to the program under a federal data collection approach.

Another intervention approach is online learning approach to kids with disabilities. Although this approach is good at giving kids an opportunity to express themselves in an online platform, the centre for online learning and students with disabilities report their concerns over the participation of kids in this platform. There is a need for a more concerted effort to ensure that data of all the students involved in an online learning platform is standardized and made public for better public intervention.The other mechanism essentially important for students with learning disabilities is the Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) as a special curriculum content aimed for use at the discretion of students with print-disabled learners. They include issues such as Braille, large-print and electronic texts. The problem with AIM is that eligibility for students with this challenge through National Instructional Material Access Centre (NIMAC) is clearly outdated (NCLD 2014, p39). More clarity for this approach needs to be made public for every intervention to be accessible and profitable to all students living with disabilities.

The other most important program available to the public is the School Voucher program. In this program, parents are offered the opportunity to take their kids to a school of their choice in the community, through a fixed annual dollar amount kitty provided for them. The opportunity herein with this program is that students can attend a school of their choice within their population (NCLD 39). The problem with this approach is that parents need to stop using other programs such as Least Restrictive Environment (IRE) and also the Individualized Educational Program (IPE). State assessment is also limited to the students therefore knowing how they perform academically becomes a challenge. The IPE program just like any other approach focuses on three cyclic approaches. The first is planning, followed by implanting and finally evaluating (British Columbia Government, 2009, p5).

Case History

Master J is a case of dyslexia and partly dyscalculia. Master J has a problem with mastering maths concepts. Instead of grasping normal 5+7=12 he will be found laboriously counting his fingers over the time. Personally he recently lost his grandfather from a case of prostate cancer. Though his grandfather used to be his close friend, the loss came as a surprise and he is suffering from the grief and that affects his motor development. The kid has a history of impulsiveness that when fellow students try to interrupt him he jumps up to his defence and beats them up without any form of fear and remorse. His friends tend to isolate him at times especially when he is annoyed.

In school, Master J depends on every advice that comes from his teachers, especially from Madam Caro. She has been very supportive in ensuring that Master J gets the best treatment from the school just like other kids living with such disabilities. Having noticed the challenge that his student was undergoing through, she opted to have him placed on a special counselling program and peer education plan to ensure he acclimatizes with the rest. But his constant fears coming from bad dreams of his father beating up his mother are destroying every effort of development.

The school has voucher plan initiated by the Ministry of Education as well as an MIA but no RTI in place. But since his condition is not elevated by some of these plans, he will remain a liability to his class teacher, Madam Caro. In her case, she lacks the basic knowledge of a research-based approach to training such students with her limited knowledge in career guidance and counselling (Chad & Bryant, 2009). Therefore Master J has to ensure that he does all learning from the teacher’s perspective even though the degree of his healing may be more in futility.

Techniques for assessment of a student with Dyslexia

There is a lack of consensus over which method of assessment is most appropriate for teachers in training kids with reading challenges. But recently, researchers emphasized the need to have an RTI approach to assessing the demands of an ever-growing challenge of enrolment of kids with reading and even mathematics challenges (Chard and Bryant, 2009). There are other measures which can guide this process from an infant point of view. They include measures such as DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) which is done through an oral class process. It measures the fluency of the student in reading specific words and is conducted over a period 2 minutes per probe (WETA Public Broadcasting, 2017). The validity of this approach stands at 80 percent (Johnson and Pool, nd). Other than RTI and DIBELS, the Curriculum-Based Measurement is another most influential measure applicable to all areas of standardized observations requiring a high level of reliability. It looks at test scores, age, the program in which the student is placed and teachers’ marks about the comprehension of the student. The data obtained from this material is also applicable to other screening measures and is used in IEP planning phases of intervention (Deno 1985, p.219).

For the maths problem, an evidence-based approach can be the most effective to ensure that at every stage of progress an assessment is done and feedback from the student is noted for further clarification. But before this a pocket size fact chart can be used to introduce them slowly into the concepts and then move forward to a more complex one. The process should be done in small packets such as a fifteen minutes and not an hour per day (Garnett, 2017).

Intervention Measures

Based on the both cognition and interactionist theory, there is need to look at the basic mechanisms for intervention with a particular significance to the child that has a reading problem. There is a lack of meaning if there is no particular interaction between the child and the teacher as well as his environment. Therefore, the interactionist theory which emphasizes the need to provide instructions to a student as the teacher tries to maintain their tough to the environment will be of key significance. Cognition is an essential process that takes place between the mind of the teacher and that of the student.

Stanberry and Swanson (2009) point out that, the best intervention strategy for students with a reading disability is by the use of direct and strategy instructions. In strategy, the student is taught a plan to look out for patterns in words and key passages. Once they have located the prototypes, they can generalize them and make something out of them. Instruction strategies include some of the following: Elaboration, Control difficulty of processing demands of task (CDPDT), group instruction and strategy cues, among others. In elaboration, the teacher provides more instructions with detailed illustrations. In CDPDT, the teacher offers simple demonstrations with short details of the instructions. In strategy cues, the student is always told to remember steps or strategies and the teacher explains them for solving certain problems in class (Stanberry and Swanson, 2009).

Therefore in this case, Master J will have to be placed under CDPDT because of the great relationship he shares with the class teacher. She will have to demonstrations of how Master J is supposed to read as she slowly introduces him into the practice. Over a period of six months she should be able to see a difference in the coherence, fluency of reading in the student.

In the maths case, the student has to undergo three stages, demonstrations, practice and tests. Master J will first be shown how calculations are done using fact charts and then later he can be left to them by himself. After doing them the teacher can assess his performance through tests and allow him to offer feedback. The sessions should take not more than fifteen minutes per day. After some time, complex maths concepts can be introduced to see how he can move on without depending on the fact chats. Interchanging of maths signs can be part of this stage and progress noted.


British Columbia Government (2009). Individual education planning for students with special needs. A resource guide for teachers. [Online] Available athttp://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/specialed/docs/iepssn.pdf [Accessed 29th Jan 2017]

Chad, D. & Bryant, D.P.(2009). Evidence-based interventions for students with learning disabilities: How research can inform practice. [Online] Available at http://www.meadowscenter.org/files/resources/CLD-BryantD-Sept09.pdf [Accessed 29 Jan 2017]

Davis , P & Florian, L. () Teaching strategies and approaches for pupils with special educational needs: A scoping study. [Online] Available at: http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/6059/1/RR516.pdf [Accessed 29th Jan 2017]

Deno, S.L. (1985). Curriculum-based measurement: The emerging alternative, Exceptional Children, 52(3):219-232.

Garnett, K. (2017). Math Learning disabilities. [Online] Available at http://www.ldonline.org/article/5896/ [29 Jan 2017]

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Kemp, C., Goodman, N.D., & Tenenbaum, J.B. (2010). Learning to learn causal models, Cognitive Science: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 1-59.

Median, J. (2017) Specific learning disorder. [Online] Available at https://psychcentral.com/disorders/specific-learning-disorder/[Accessed 29 Jan 2017]

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Petersen, M.L. & Vander Laan, M.J.(2014). Causal models and learning from data: integrating causal modelling and statistical estimation, Epidemiology, 25(3):418-426.

Stanberry, K & Swanson, L. (2009). Effective reading interventions for kids with learning disabilities.[Online] Available at http://www.readingrockets.org/article/effective- reading-interventions-kids-learning-disabilities [Accessed 29 Jan 2017].

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May 10, 2023

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