method, finding them equal with regard to number of trials required for learning but retention being better for the manual tracing method. Kirk was then employed as a psychologist at another residential facility for children with mental retardation, Wayne County Training School in Northville, Michigan, an institution that was to become a testing ground for many instructional techniques used for children with learning disabilities.
While at Wayne County, Kirk pursued his doctorate at the University of Michigan. Influenced by a number of theoretical notions coming out about the brain and learning, including Orton’s theory about cerebral dominance, Kirk studied brain-behavior relationships, with his dissertation focused on surgically creating lesions in rats and testing them for handedness and strephosymbolia (Kirk, 1935, 1936). Kirk later noted that this foray into neurophysiology had little direct bearing on his future work in learning disabilities other than to result in an aversion to terms such as “brain dysfunction,” “strephosymbolia,” and “dyslexia”: “I feel that it is more parsimonious to give a designation in behavioral terms by stating, for example, that the child has not learned to read” (Kirk, 1976).
Kirk teamed up with Thorleif Hegge, who had recently emigrated from Norway and was brought to Wayne County as the director of research. Hegge and Kirk, along with Kirk’s wife, Winifred Day Kirk, coauthored Remedial Reading Drills (Hegge, Kirk, & Kirk, 1936). Influenced by Orton, Fernald, and Monroe, as well as the principles of learning from the school of functional psychology at the University of Chicago, the approach taken in the remedial drills was a
carefully programmed phonic system which emphasizes sound blending and kinesthetic experiences. The program is based upon the following principles: minimal change; overlearning; prompting and confirmation; one response for each symbol; and social reinforcement. Kirk (1940) followed up this earlier interest in reading with a book on teaching slow-learning children to read. (Wiederholt, 1974, p. 32)
Kirk moved on to the Milwaukee State Teachers College and then to the University of Illinois in the late 1940s to head up the special education program. In 1949, he established the first experimental preschool for children with mental retardation. In so doing, “to be able to analyze the communication problems of younger children at the outset or before the remediation, it became necessary for us to develop tests to isolate some of these abilities and disabilities” (Kirk, 1970, p. 108).
Kirk worked for the next decade on refining an assessment approach for pinpointing specific disabilities in children. Influenced by Monroe’s use of profiles (Kirk, 1976), he aimed to come up with an instrument that would provide profiles of intra-individual differences on key psycholinguistic abilities. The result was the first edition of the Illinois Test of Psycholinguistic Abilities (ITPA) (Kirk, McCarthy, & Kirk, 1961). We return to the ITPA in our discussion of the next time period (c.1960 to 1975).
Perceptual, Perceptual-Motor, and Attention Disabilities
As with the research on language and reading disabilities, the early research on perceptual, perceptual- motor, and attention disabilities was focused on adults with brain injuries, and much of it was conducted by Europeans, many of whom had immigrated to the United States. Key figures during this period were Kurt Goldstein, Heinz Werner, Alfred Strauss, Laura Lehtinen, William Cruickshank, and Newell Kephart.
Kurt Goldstein. As a physician and director of a hospital for soldiers who had incurred head wounds during World War I, Kurt Goldstein studied many cases of brain injury over several years. Studying his patients, whom he referred to as “traumatic dements,” within a clinical framework, he reported that they tended to display a consistent constellation of behaviors: hyperactivity, forced responsiveness to stimuli, figure- background confusion, concrete thinking, perseveration, meticulosity, and catastrophic reaction (Goldstein, 1936, 1939).
Forced responsiveness to stimuli was characterized by the soldiers’ indiscriminant reactions to stimuli, a seeming inability to distinguish essential from inessential. It was as though they were driven to respond to