mental retardation, social and emotional disturbance), with socioenvironmental influences (e.g., cultural differences, insufficient or inappropriate instruction, psychogenic factors), and especially with attention deficit disorder, all of which may cause learning problems, a learning disability is not the direct result of those conditions or influences. (ICLD, 1987, p. 222)
NJCLD revised definition (1988). The NJCLD revised definition was in response to the LDA definition’s emphasis on the lifelong nature of learning disabilities and the ICLD’s listing of social skills deficits as a type of learning disability. The NJCLD revised definition agreed with the former but disagreed with the latter:
Learning disabilities is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual, presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction, and may occur across the life span. Problems of self- regulatory behaviors, social perception, and social interaction may exist with learning disabilities but do not by themselves constitute a learning disability. Although learning disabilities may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions (for example, sensory impairment, mental retardation, serious emotional disturbance) or with extrinsic influences (such as cultural differences, insufficient or inappropriate instruction), they are not the result of those conditions or influences. (NJCLD, 1988, p. 1)
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Reauthorized definition (1997). The definition in federal law has remained virtually unchanged since the one included in P.L. 94-142:
A. IN GENERAL.—The term “specific learning disability” means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.
B. DISORDERS INCLUDED.—Such term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.
C. DISORDERS NOT INCLUDED.—Such term does not include a learning problem that is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. (IDEA Amendments of 1997, Sec. 602(26), p. 13)
Continuation of Research Strands of the Learning Disabilities Research Institutes
As we noted earlier, Keogh (1983) noted that four of the learning disabilities research institutes funded by the USOE in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Columbia University, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Kansas, University of Minnesota, and University of Virginia) approached learning disabilities as a strategic, information processing problem and developed their interventions within this framework. She pointed out that the institutes’ data on outcomes were very promising. McKinney (1983) reported that the institutes’ intervention research demonstrated that students with learning disabilities are capable of learning task-appropriate strategies that enable them to succeed in academic learning and adaptive functioning. Although it is conjecture, it is easy to postulate that the institutes’ rigorous research standards and encouraging findings provided a springboard for future research.
Columbia University. The Columbia institute’s research in reading most likely helped facilitate the proliferation of reading intervention research that has occurred in the field of learning disabilities. For example, Lyon (1998) reported that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has received more than $25 million to study how students with and without disabilities learn to read. Today, findings from the NIH studies are having a significant impact on the reading instruction provided youngsters with learning disabilities. Judith Birch of Columbia University recently teamed with numerous NIH researchers to