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LEARNING DISABILITIES: HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES - page 16 / 42

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general mental retardation, cultural, sensory and/or educational deprivation or environmentally produced serious emotional disturbance. (Haring & Bateman, 1969, p. 3)

National Advisory Committee on Handicapped Children (NACHC) definition. Toward the end of the 1960s, the U.S. Office of Education (USOE) formed a committee to issue a report on learning disabilities and to write a definition of learning disabilities that might be used as a basis for legislation for funding programs. The committee, chaired by Samuel Kirk, offered a definition similar to Kirk’s 1962 definition:

Children with special (specific) learning disabilities exhibit a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using spoken and written language. These may be manifested in disorders of listening, thinking, talking, reading, writing, spelling or arithmetic. They include conditions which have been referred to as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, developmental aphasia, etc. They do not include learning problems that are due primarily to visual, hearing or motor handicaps, to mental retardation, emotional disturbance, or to environmental disadvantage. (USOE, 1968, p. 34)

Legislation for learning disabilities. The original version of the Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA), passed in 1966, did not include learning disabilities as one of the categories of handicapping conditions eligible for special education assistance. Even though parents of children with learning disabilities advocated including their children in the law, they were outmaneuvered by parents of children with other, more traditional disabilities, who

convinced key Congressional staff persons that the definition of LD was so broad that it could include any economically disadvantaged child whose circumstances resulted in educational problems. They argued that such children, already assisted by the Congress through Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, would use up all the resources needed by children who were, in fact, disabled. (Martin, 1987)

By 1969, advocates supporting legislation proposed by the Bureau for the Education of the Handicapped (BEH) were able to exert enough pressure to have legislation passed for learning disabilities—the Children with Specific Learning Disabilities Act of 1969. This act, which adopted the NACHC definition of learning disabilities, supported service programs for students with learning disabilities for the first time in the form of model projects. As part of the leverage to convince Congress of the need for funding for learning disabilities, advocates used the NACHC report, which stated that few of the estimated 1% to 3% of the school-age population with learning disabilities were receiving services.

In 1970, Public Law 91-230 consolidated into one act a number of previously separate federal grant programs related to the education of children with disabilities. Under this law Congress still did not recognize learning disabilities as a formal category eligible for support to local schools through Part B (Grants to States) of EHA. However, Part G of the law, the earlier law for Children with Specific Learning Disabilities, continued to provide authority to the USOE to award discretionary grants for learning disabilities to support teacher education, research, and model service delivery programs (Martin, 1987).

Two significant programs established by BEH under Part G were the Child Service Demonstration Projects (CSDPs) and the Leadership Training Institute in Learning Disabilities (LTI). From 1971 to 1973, 43 states set up CSDPs. The LTI, housed at the University of Arizona, prepared documents on broad topics related to service, research, and training in learning disabilities (Bryant, 1972; Bryant, Kass, & Wiederholt, 1972), and staff of the LTI provided consultant services to the CSPDs (Wiederholt, 1974). This program followed BEH’s strategy for early childhood models and technical assistance (E. W. Martin, personal communication, January 16, 2001).

Parent and Professional Organizations Founded

During the late 1950s, parents of children who would have qualified as learning disabled had there been such a category were starting to make inroads into having their children served. Parents were beginning to

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