In recent years, learning difficulties or specific learning difficulties have emerged as the most studied and known classification of special education, with special education becoming synonymous with itself depending on how often students are placed in this category. However, considering that learning difficulties are not established as a separate discipline, it is the special education category that has brought the most disagreement among academics, researchers and educators to date. In other words, no causal relationship has been determined between the phenomenology of learning difficulties and the factors that cause them. Despite formal definitions, there is a lack of understanding of their nature and interpretation, indicating that the main purpose of a different discipline has not been fulfilled. Without understanding their nature and interpretation, scientific perspectives on learning difficulties are questionable or unfounded. And this is at the heart of the problem for identification learning difficulties, which is a lack of consensus on how to better define a classification category.
Over the course of more than 100 years of work, a unanimous and unanimous answer to a simple question has not been given: What are the learning difficulties? Today, much is known about their characteristics and applied practices, but there is yet no answer to the question of whether they represent a separate category of students with low academic achievement or are structures that all underperforming students can do. These two aspects have been studied meticulously over time, though not consistently. As a result, even today some claim that learning disability represents a particular difficulty. Because while these children have high intelligence, others are believed to include any child who cannot learn.
Scientists from various disciplines, but mostly educators since the beginning of the twenty-first century, my child who attended the parents’ kindergarten was writing in reverse or is this dyslexia? Will my child become a future Einstein? My child has difficulty understanding meanings, and could this be dyslexic? or My child may be distressed and performing poorly at school and therefore having learning difficulties? These scientists have tried to make the field functionally functional through international organizations such as the Learning Barriers Association. That is, they tried to answer whether it is a scientific discipline with certain features or an all-encompassing pseudoscience. They also sought to identify operational characteristics that would help children reach their full potential in the school and community context.
Therefore, researchers are now trying to redefine their field to answer the question of whether certain learning difficulties constitute a scientific category or represent one of the lower achieving groups that do not need specific treatment or specially designed training. As discussed recently, the field description should summarize all pre-existing knowledge reflected in various definitions and applied pedagogical practice. This helps determine the degree of contribution of the deficiency as well as the contribution of the effects of various external factors. Education reform efforts in the US have emphasized the application of evidence-based teaching approaches to improve reading instruction, which has been the focus of research both in the US and internationally for more than 30 years.
A major concern emerging from the research is the failure of education systems to bridge the gap between children, particularly those with disabilities and those belonging to minorities. Despite redefinitions and training arrangements, there are still uncertainties and contradictions regarding the conceptualization and definition of learning difficulties. There have been attempts to determine why they exist, and many neurobiological researchers have attempted to attribute them to central nervous system (CNS) disorders. But so far the reasons have not been determined. The framework for describing intelligence achievement inconsistency is still used internationally by people who see learning difficulties as a distinct disorder. The low achievement model, on the other hand, is applied by those who mention a group of low achieving students that is not different.
In the US, school districts in various states have begun to complement the traditional test model (for example, intelligence-achievement mismatch) with the child’s response to the intervention. As mentioned, the child’s response to intervention is considered a suitable method for identifying students with learning disabilities. In a national survey, 72% of teachers and 54% of parents support this decision. Because the child’s response to intervention approach facilitates early intervention and pre-referral services. In this way, inappropriate referrals to special education are reduced and at the same time, a preventive intervention model is created for students who are referred to special education services after demonstrating school failure. In recent years, another framework, the strengths and weaknesses model, has emerged with the tendency to prevail. Although not covered by federal law regulations, it is widely accepted and used in the United States because it supports research-based practices.
Therefore, depending on the theoretical approaches to learning difficulties, there are four framework models that can be used to conceptualize and define, especially in the USA today. Advocates of the nondiscriminatory nature of the disorder have adopted the low achievement framework that does not account for the unexpected failure element. Advocates of the distinctive nature of the disorder use one or more of the remaining three frameworks: intelligence-achievement mismatch, response to instruction-intervention, and intra-individual differences. One of the key elements of the distinguishing character of the disease is the concept of unexpected failure. This is offered by children who need to learn but are not able to achieve scholastic success, without other learning disabilities and while receiving adequate education. Therefore, the key aspect of evaluating the validity of the identification is to determine which frameworks produce a unique set of low successes. A valid classification should reflect metrics that provide functionality to the contingency failure structure.
The traditional intelligence success inconsistency framework (IAD) continues to dominate identification both in the United States and internationally, despite the controversy it has provoked. It is a decisive method of identifying students with particular learning disabilities when they show a significant discrepancy between reading, writing, typically measured by IQ, and academic achievement measured by mathematical tests. This framework has been criticized for its reliability in terms of both ability tests and achievement tests due to the multidimensional nature of learning difficulties and errors in psychometric measurements. The response to the intervention, as noted, is another framework that facilitates teaching, both in general education and in specific interventions for students who do not meet the core curriculum level. In order for a student to be considered at risk due to academic difficulties, the student’s assessments are compiled and his progress after specific interventions is monitored.
After the implementation of the interventions, if there is still inconsistency in success and growth, the student is considered to have a learning disability. While this model is used in the USA, a similar pedagogical dynamic assessment model is used in Britain. This framework is also the use of multiple assessments in the classroom to identify students with lower achievement in each subject. It has always been criticized for being an unstable method, depending on the group that makes up the class. Using a single test or scores from multiple tests, it is difficult to recognize the confidentiality of a student’s abilities and determine the cut-off point that will place him or her in the learning disability group.
As has been said, it is said that the framework of the strengths and weaknesses model is allowed within the scope of the provision of alternative research-based practices in the Education Law for Persons with Disabilities. There are different strengths and weaknesses models such as the congruence-mismatch model, the binary inconsistency / consistency model, and the inconsistency / consistency model. These three models differ in methodology, but agree on the fact that students can be identified as having learning disabilities when they show corresponding weaknesses in one or more specific cognitive abilities. In practice, however, students can often be identified with SDL only by demonstrating a model of strengths and weaknesses in areas of academic achievement. Moreover, there may be multiple individual differences that accumulate measurement errors and render them unreliable.
In a recent survey of frameworks used by school psychologists in the United States, Cottrell and Barrett, looking at 471 examples of school psychologists, found that 63.1% almost always used the intelligence-achievement mismatch framework. In most cases, 49.3% were used in response to intervention and 29.4% in almost all cases using the strengths and weaknesses model framework. However, they could not determine which framework was used primarily. For example, 31.5% reported using the response framework to intervention most of the time, only 17.8% reported using this framework only. Maki and Adams surveyed 461 school psychologists in 2017 to find out which was primarily employed. They found that while only 30.4% reported primarily using the intelligence-achievement mismatch framework, they essentially used the response to intervention (34.5%) and the strengths and weaknesses model (35.1%), respectively, almost equally.
Benson et al., In another national-level US study of 1317 school psychologists, found that 37% used an intelligence-achievement mismatch, even in states not included in the diagnostic procedure. Fifty percent used response to intervention. Finally, about 53% reported using the strengths and weaknesses model. In the same survey, 49.2% were using early literacy monitoring, verbal reading fluency, reading comprehension, early numeracy, mathematics and calculation procedures. They also reported that they participated in academic screening procedures including mathematical concepts and applications, spelling and written expression requests. Most of the participants reported that the response to the intervention, the strengths and weaknesses model, or the intelligence-achievement mismatch was used together. This last survey confirms that there is no consensus among professionals regarding identification procedures in its determination.
Author: Ozlem Guvenc Agaoglu