Definition Of Learning Disabilities

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It is informative to look into the history and origin of the definition of learning disabilities. Learning disability was referred to as mental retardation or mental handicap in the past.

The National Health Service was started in the UK in 1946, which led to a medical model of disability being formed and the term “mentally handicapped” came into use. Institutions changed into hospitals, and the emphasis shifted to caring for the residents.

In 1959, the Mental Health Act in UK distinguished patients with ‘mental illness’ from people who were known to have a ‘mental handicap.’

The UK government published a paper on the need to provide better service to mentally handicapped people in 1971. This was in response to reports of poor conditions in hospitals and laid the foundation for Community Care.

The idea of normalization started influencing care delivery to people with learning disabilities in the 1980’s. It emphasized the value of the individual person, their right to opportunity, and their right to receive extra support for fulfilling their potential. Simultaneously there was a realization that the existing institutions were a hindrance to integration in the community.

Present day definitions

A present day definition of learning disabilities would include the difficulties some children face in learning in regular classrooms. This does not imply a lack of intelligence in these children; it only means that they learn differently. Children who have learning disabilities possess average or above average intelligence.

A description of learning disabilities

Another definition of learning disabilities describe specific types of learning problems.

Learning disabilities may cause a person to have difficulty in learning and using skills such as reading, writing, listening, reasoning, speaking and doing math.

Learning disabilities or LD differ from person to person. One person’s learning disabilities may differ from another person’s learning disabilities. One person may find it difficult to read and write. Another person may have trouble in understanding math. A third person may have problems in all these areas, in addition to problems understanding what other people say.

Learning disabilities are life long and there is no cure for them. But it is possible for children with such disabilities to be high achievers, and there are ways to teach them to get around their learning disability. With the right kind of help, children with such disabilities are able to learn successfully.

How common are they?

They are very common. In fact, one out of every five persons in the US has a learning disability. Three million children between the ages of six through to twenty one show some form of learning disability, and they receive special education in their schools. More than half of all the children receiving special education have learning disability.

The signs of learning disability

There is no single sign to show that a person has learning disability. Experts on the subject look for differences between a child’s actual performance in school, and how well they could do according to their ability or intelligence. There are also clues to indicate that a child may have learning disability; to give an example, a child with a learning disability many find it difficult to learn the alphabet or and to connect letters with their sounds.


Types of Learning Disabilities