"There's nothing wrong with me... this is how I'm supposed to be."
Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day, 2004
Post #1 Monday, January, 1st, 2018: Memory
The first paid job I held in education was as an aide in an EBD (Emotionally/Behaviorally Disturbed) special education classroom at Lewis & Clark Junior High in Billings, Montana in 1984. Right next door was the RSP (Resource Specialist Program) classroom. During my first week of employment I met the RSP teacher - we talked briefly in the hallway during recess. I don’t remember her name but she was very nice and I believe she was a very good teacher. I kept looking into her classroom and she asked, “what are you looking at?” I said, “I’m just trying to see what a learning disabled student looks like. I’m learning about all the exceptional populations and I'm now learning about the EBD population (in Montana, those are the students who swear or listen to Van Halen or The Cars) but I’ve never worked with students with LD.” She said, “they look just like every other student. Learning disabled students are just like every other student. Learning disabilities are invisible.” I’ve always remembered what she said that day. Learning disabilities are invisible.
Post #2 Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018: Another Memory
Fast forward to 1987. Having finally completed my graduate degree, I was now in the field but still on my quest to find out as much as I could about learning disabilities because I was a member of a team (the IEP team) that assessed for, and determined eligibility for, special education due to a learning disability - I figured it would be a great idea if I had half a clue as to what a learning disability actually was. I don't really blame my graduate school for never fully training me on what LD was. I mean, they tried. It seemed pretty clear that all of the professors knew what LD was, at least they trained me like everyone else. There were definitions of LD in our textbooks. I was trained to give some tests. I kept thinking someday this whole LD thing would all make sense to me (and one day it finally did, but that day will be shared in a subsequent post). I remember having a very interesting conversation about LD with an experienced and respected school psychologist from Fort Bridger (I can't remember his name but I respected his opinion and was seeking his wisdom). He said, "Don, the students who are identified with LD are the ones who got caught." There may be 25 other students in the second grade just as low academically but one of them fell on to someone's radar screen. It was just the student's lucky day I guess.
Post #3 Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018: Not a New Question
Questions and concerns related to labeling and classification practices have been around for a long time. The NC4LD Project is merely continuing to ask the same questions. Someday we may finally get the correct answers! To access the entire article below, you will need to sign up for a free account from Sage Journals (highly recommended).
Laurence M. Lieberman, EdD
Journal of Learning Disabilities
Vol 13, Issue 2, pp. 65 - 68
First Published February 1, 1980
From the article, "The early 1970s brought a rebellion against such practices. There’s a wealth of research and discussion on the evils of labeling, and well there should be; however, it has become more and more evident that labeling is not inherently evil. What is questioned is the purpose of the labels and how stereotyped thoughts and attitudes evolve from them."
Post #4 Thursday, January 4th, 2018: What is the Purpose?
The purpose of labeling a student with a learning disability is to obtain [under]funding for categorical services (i.e., special education). The existing model is diagrammed above: A) student is behind in reading; B) student is determined by an IEP Team to possess a learning disability; and C) student is provided reading instruction. A non categorical model, such as NC4LD proposes, is shown in the bottom line: A) student is behind in reading; C) student is provided reading instruction. There, it's pretty much that simple. No need to call the student bad names (as shown in Step B), just provide reading instruction. The obvious next questions include, "what about the multimillion dollar special education industry and who will underfund it? Not to worry, NC4LD has those questions covered too - stay tuned.
Post #5 Friday, January 5th, 2018: Gee Whiz
People often erroneously believe school psychologists diagnose LD. IEP Teams determine eligibility for special education; in actuality, no "diagnosis" occurs by anyone. School psychologists complete their assessment and present their information to the IEP Team for further consideration, just like everyone else on the team. The team members consider all information available and determine if or if not the student is eligible for special education due to LD (or any other special education category). You might be interested to know that school psychologists aren't even legally required members of the team. An IEP team, in order to be a legal team, consists of the parent, administrator, special education teacher, and general education teacher (and, well, someone who is knowledgeable regarding the suspected disability, whoever that might be). And often, the most important member of the team, the true expert - the student - isn't even a participant. So there you have it: school psychologists [already] don't "diagnose" LD and sometimes or often aren't even members of the team, yet everyone always believes school psychologists diagnose or misdiagnose LD. Gee whiz.
Post #6 Saturday, January 6th, 2018: Guest Appearance by Miss D
Hello again everyone! Just another quick reminder that whether you want to call it a "diagnosis" or "finding the student eligible," it can still harm humans. Once identified, plenty of these students go through the rest of their lives thinking there is something wrong with their brains. Once identified, plenty of parents, teachers, and peers thinking there is something wrong with the student's brains. It's a sad byproduct of a process that was almost always only trying to help. Have a great day!
Post #7 Sunday, January 7th, 2018: Apples & Oranges
There are several methods districts use to identify SLD. For example, one district might use an RtI model while another might use the traditional discrepancy model. There are other models too. So your child might be identified as SLD in one district but not in a different district two miles down the road (or vice versa). Your child is an apple in one district but an orange in the next. The same variance is sometimes observed between two different schools within the same district - your child is an apple in School A but an orange right across the street in School B.
Post #8 Monday, January 8th, 2018: Something There
Let's take a look at some of the aforementioned methods utilized to identify SLD, starting with RtI (Response to Intervention). RtI consists of several meetings where everyone gets together and tries to figure out ways to help the student. After three or more meetings the student is placed in special education. "We've tried everything we can think of and he sill has trouble reading so there must be something wrong with his brain."
Post #9 Tuesday, January 9th, 2018: Call It A Day
Another widely-used method to determine SLD is the traditional [ability-achievement] discrepancy model. Tests are administered to find the student's cognitive levels (IQ) and academic levels in reading, writing, and math. If a statistically significant (1.5 standard deviations) discrepancy between the two is found, SLD may be determined. SLD is inferred to be due to processing deficits, such as attention, memory, visual-perceptual, association, etc. In the comprehensive assessment, teams address and rule out other possible explanations (such as vision, hearing, attendance, language, culture, environmental, and other factors) for the student's academic difficulties. This method actually follows the scientific process but many don't realize that or practice that aspect. "He's smart, but for some reason, probably poor attention, he's fallen behind in reading so we'll put him in special education to help with his learning disability and call it a day."
Post #10 Friday, January 12th, 2018: Sometimes
The clinical (APA/DSM/Psychiatric) model has their own method(s) to determine a reading disability. The therapist asks the student, "So is reading difficult for you sometimes?" "Yes, sometimes," the student replies. "Well, that's because you have a reading disability."
Post #11 Saturday, January 13th, 2018: Thank You
Thank you to everyone in the helping fields for all you do! Psychologists and others in mental health areas help humans in many ways. I am proud to be associated with all of you. The NC4LD Project is not attacking or criticizing any individuals or even any one school-of-thought; the project merely encourages all of us to remember the purpose of assessment: to find ways to help humans - and diagnosing or misdiagnosing invented conditions just doesn't help at all. That's all for today. Thank you again.
Post #12 Sunday, January 14th, 2018: Good News & Bad News
PSW (Patterns of Strengths & Weaknesses) is another new [old] model attempting to discover learning disabilities. Although newbies in the field think they've discovered something new (ala Bruner), psychologists have always examined scatter in psychological profiles. Everyone who takes intelligence tests has a different profile (as shown in the huge but cool diagram by W. Joel Schneider, above). The rookies take a look at the profile and say, "The good news is this child has a lot of strengths, but the bad news is... the Cd and DS subtests indicate weaknesses with short-term auditory and visual memory skills. It looks like a learning disability to me. We should put him in a special education class to help with reading. Use his strengths in sequencing to overcome his memory deficits - that is to say, provide step-by-step instructions and have him use a planner."
Post #13 Monday, January 15th, 2018: There's a correlation here
The Neuropsychological Model is, you guessed it, still another method/approach to seek out learning disabilities. The Examiner administers the Halstead-Reitan Test Battery (and there are others of course) and infers, through correlation, which part of your child's brain is, um, neurologically impaired; "Research has shown there is a correlation between [this part of the brain] and [memory/attention, for example]." Special education to help with reading is the recommendation.
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
Post #14 Tuesday, January 16th, 2018: The Top 25
You may not have realized this, you may have thought there were only two ways to determine SDL, but IEP Teams utilize many methods and approaches to find Specific Learning Disabilities. For the Top 25 Ways, check out one of XP's Past ClassiX, Do You Realize?
About the NC4LD Project:
Welcome to XP's 2018 NC4LD Project. By now you've figured out the acronym stands for "Noncategorical for Learning Disabilities" and the goal is just that: to quit calling calling students learning disabled. On this page I will list hundreds of reasons why that needs to occur. I'll keep saying the same thing on an almost daily basis until you finally get it. Maybe/hopefully you have thoughts on this topic too... if you have a question or would like to make a guest post, please send via e-mail and it will be considered for inclusion on this page - or you can call it a blog if you want.
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