Redefining learning disabilities
Taylor, Amber Brueggemann
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This review of the literature and study attempted to clarify the debate surrounding LD diagnosis by offering a new diagnostic model based on the principles of academic and functional impairment. We first reviewed the strengths and weaknesses of current LD diagnostic approaches. Next, we proposed a method for diagnosing LD that presumes core symptoms of below average academic achievement and associated impairment in other domains of functioning, particularly adaptive functioning, which is modeled on the successful decades old approach to mental retardation diagnosis. Finally, latent class analysis was employed to identify a group of students with low achievement scores associated with a level of functional impairment indicative of the presence of a learning disability. The scores were then transformed to percentile ranks to allow for comparison to other instruments. The learning disability class accounted for 30% of the sample. The implications for classification of children with learning disabilities are discussed and the suggestions for research point in several promising directions.