Bateman’s definition was historically significant because it reintroduced Monroe’s earlier notion of using a discrepancy between achievement and potential as a way of formally identifying students with learning disabilities. Whereas the notion of a discrepancy went relatively unnoticed or unused during Monroe’s time, discrepancy was to become intimately linked to identifying learning disabilities shortly after Bateman’s emphasis on it.
Task Force I and II definitions. By the early 1960s, the federal government began to take interest in developing a definition of learning disabilities. Several federal agencies8 and the Easter Seal Research Foundation cosponsored three task forces, the first two of which focused on definition. The title of the project, “Minimal Brain Dysfunction: National Project on Learning Disabilities in Children,” reflected the division in the field at the time over the relevance and validity of attributing neurological causes to learning disabilities. This division was also evident in the definition that emanated from Task Force I, composed primarily of medical professionals, versus the definition developed by Task Force II, composed primarily of educators. Task Force I elected to define minimal brain dysfunction whereas Task Force II defined learning disabilities. The decision of Task Force II to provide an alternative definition to Task Force I is all the more significant in that Task Force I’s charge was to come up with a definition whereas Task Force II was not charged with arriving at a definition. Instead, it was to focus on educational recommendations. However, it was the consensus of Task Force II that “because special educators in the field of learning disabilities must base educational management and teaching strategies on functional diagnostic information, a redefinition of this group of children for educational purposes was required” (Haring & Bateman, 1969, p. 2).
Task Force I defined minimal brain dysfunction as a disorder affecting
children of near average, average, or above average general intelligence with certain learning or behavior disabilities ranging from mild to severe, which are associated with deviations of function of the central nervous system. These deviations may manifest themselves by various combinations of impairment in perception, conceptualization, language, memory, and control of attention, impulse, or motor function….
These aberrations may arise from genetic variations, biochemical irregularities, perinatal brain insults or other illnesses or injuries sustained during the years which are critical for the development and maturation of the central nervous system, or from unknown causes. (Clements, 1966, pp. 9–10)
Task Force II could not agree on a single definition of learning disabilities. Instead, it put forward two definitions; the first stressed the notion of intra-individual differences included in Kirk’s definition, the second stressed discrepancy between intelligence and achievement contained in Bateman’s definition. The first definition held that
Children with learning disabilities are those (1) who have educationally significant discrepancies among their sensory-motor, perceptual, cognitive, academic, or related developmental levels which interfere with the performance of educational tasks; (2) who may or may not show demonstrable deviation in central nervous system functioning; and (3) whose disabilities are not secondary to general mental retardation, sensory deprivation, or serious emotional disturbance. (Haring & Bateman, 1969, pp. 2–3)
The second definition stated that
Children with learning disabilities are those (1) who manifest an educationally significant discrepancy between estimated academic potential and actual level of academic functioning as related to dyfunctioning [sic] in the learning process; (2) may or may not show demonstrable deviation in central nervous system functioning; and (3) whose disabilities are not secondary to