bend the ear of sympathetic and progressive educational administrators. Parent advocacy groups at the local and state level were starting to spring up around the country.
In April of 1963, several of these groups gathered together in Chicago for a conference entitled, “The Conference on Exploration into Problems of the Perceptually Handicapped Child.” As noted earlier, Kirk addressed this group and introduced the term, learning disabilities. The following year, the Association for Children with Learning Disabilities was formally established.
In 1968, the first major professional organization dealing with learning disabilities, the Division for Children with Learning Disabilities (DCLD) of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) was founded. Its first president was Raymond Barsch.
Educational Programming: Dominance of Psychological Processing and Visual Perceptual Training
The Emergent Period witnessed a proliferation of training programs specifically designed for children with learning disabilities. The vast majority of these educational approaches assumed that children with learning disabilities suffered from psychological processing and/or visual-perceptual processing deficits. We divide the educational programs into those focused on language disabilities and those focused on visual and visual-motor disabilities.
Language disabilities. During this period, Kirk’s conceptualization of language disabilities, using the ITPA, had a major impact on the field. The development of the ITPA grew out of an earlier project of Kirk’s focused on preschool children with mental retardation (Kirk, 1976). In 1949, Kirk began a study of the effects of early intervention on the development of children with mental retardation, setting up experimental and contrast classes in both an institutional and a community setting. The children were studied for 3 to 5 years, and the results were generally successful9 (Kirk, 1958). In directing the early intervention study, Kirk and his colleagues worked on coming up with diagnostic tests that would be useful for instruction. Because no measures were in existence, they began to develop tests to determine the individual perceptual, linguistic, and memory disabilities of the children.
Frustrated with these early attempts to build a diagnostic test of discrete abilities, Kirk enrolled in a course taught by Charles Osgood at the University of Illinois. Kirk and his colleagues eventually used Osgood’s (1957) communication model as a basis for the first experimental edition of the ITPA (Kirk et al., 1961), with a revised edition published in 1968 (Kirk, McCarthy, & Kirk, 1968). The ITPA consisted of 12 subtests divided along three dimensions: (a) channels of communication, (b) psycholinguistic processes, and (c) levels of organization. Channels referred to the modalities (auditory-vocal or visual-motor) through which sensory information is received and then expressed. Psycholinguistic processes included reception, expression, and organization. Organization was the internal manipulation of information of concepts and linguistic skills. Levels of organization included the representational, dealing with symbolic behavior, and the automatic, dealing with habit chains. The 12 subtests were: visual reception, auditory reception, visual association, auditory association, verbal expression, motor expression, visual sequential memory, auditory sequential memory, visual closure, auditory closure, grammatic closure, and sound blending.
Depending on the particular profile that a child showed, a teacher was to concentrate remediation on various areas. Several authors came up with training activities for use with the ITPA (Bush & Giles, 1969; Karnes, 1968; Kirk & Kirk, 1971; Minskoff, Wiseman, & Minskoff, 1974).
Although use of the ITPA was widespread throughout the 1960s, by the 1970s it began to wane in popularity. Numerous critics of the ITPA surfaced (e.g., Engelmann, 1967; Hallahan & Cruickshank, 1973; Hammill & Larsen, 1974; Mann, 1971; Ysseldyke & Salvia, 1974). The criticism focused on the psychometric properties of the instrument as well as the efficacy of the training procedures.
Even though the ITPA fell out of favor,10 it was historically important for at least two reasons. First, it reinforced the notion that children with learning disabilities have intra-individual differences. Second, it