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Everything Counts


Who's Gonna' Drive You Home Tonight?

Brief History Lesson

You Have Choices!

IDEA Regulations for Identifying Children with LD

Strange Game...


XOG Challenge: Win $10.00!

A Great Link

Miss Diagnosis

Follow Up to the October XOG

Letters to the XOG Editor

Who's Gonna' Drive You Home Tonight?

Who's gonna' drive you home tonight?

The Cars

You could accept the ride home from RtI or the Traditional Model if you would like.

Not me -- I'm walking home.

Brief History Lesson

In 1975, PL 94-142 invented learning disabilities and formalized LD identification procedures through a discrepancy model. This has been the primary model utilized through the years and is considered to be a cognitive model because it requires assessed deficits with attention, memory, comprehension, association, etc. in order for an LD diagnosis to occur.

Just as is true for any model, there have been skeptics and criticisms of the discrepancy model from it's inception. It is important to note there are pros and cons to every model.

Throughout the '90s, the behaviorists increasingly criticized the traditional model. Behaviorists specifically criticized the validity of cognitive assessment practices and generally don't think humans think, referring to cognitive activities as "automatic reinforcement." The behaviorists and others who stood to make a lot of money started their revolution, discounted the traditional model, and initiated their own model (Response to Intervention, RtI) to diagnose and serve children with learning disabilities.

In California, the philosophy (or belief) of behaviorism was officially legislated in 1990 through the Hughes Bill. Nationally, the behaviorally-based RtI was finally legislated in IDEIA, 2004.

Over the past eight or so years, school districts across the nation have been struggling to successfully implement their new RtI ways of doing things and it appears there is a long way to go before this new model comes close to effectively serving students -- the model looks great on paper but it is almost impossible to successfully implement.

"We are having this meeting after trying RtI and having an SST meeting."

So now, throughout the nation, we have not just one, but two different definitions of LD, and two different ways to diagnose it. Ultimately, your child might be LD in one district but not in the next school district down the street. We have not just one, but two ineffective models to diagnose and serve children.

It is important to remember that both definitions of LD (traditional and RtI) are invented by the government -- not psychologists or other special educators. Yeah, it's true that stakeholders had some input into the development of these definitions which were ultimately determined by consensus -- not scientific methods. In other words, it is important for you the reader to remember that, just like ADHD, there is no such thing as LD!

To further complicate matters, there are many other models being utilized to diagnose and serve your child, including CBM, neuropsychological, and the clinical model, which is increasingly being integrated into the public schools (see the October XOG). And every IEP team seems to find new and unique ways to diagnose learning disabilities (see XP's Past ClassiX, "Do You Realize?").

It's been fun watching all this drama unfold... many of these new RtI school psychologists seem happy to just teach reading. Unbelievable! Others follow students around all day and disperse M&M's whenever the student emits a "thinking-like" behavior ("You completed your homework! Yay! Here's an M&M! No, here's two M&M's because you're special!").

But not to worry, the government is paying for it all.

This war between the cognitivists and behaviorists has been going on from the very start...

See the LDAAmerica White Paper (supports cognitive assessment of LD):

See the RtI camp's response (support RtI for assessment of LD):

Frankly, I'm getting a bit tired of this... Remember, the correct question is not how best to diagnose LD, but is there such a thing as LD to begin with. Here's my positive recommendation: just quit pretending there is such a thing as a learning disability!

You Have Choices!

There are many service delivery models in modern special education in the schools. Parents should know which model is being used to invent a learning disability for their child.


Response to Intervention (RtI)


Uses a "three-tiered" model of "research-based" interventions; is mostly behaviorally based.


It's an easy model for those new to the field to learn; basically the psychologist engages in research-based practices (such as George Bush's scandal-ridden DIBELS Program) intended to help the student emit reading-like behaviors and then provides the student with research-based reinforcement ("Nice job!") when/if the student tries. Excel spreadsheets can produce nifty RtI graphs using nominal data to indicate the student's progress or lack thereof.


RtI still labels children; no real research indicating this model works; takes the "psychologist" out of "school psychologist;" the psychologist often becomes a reading teacher; lack of effective "research-based" interventions in existence. RtI seems to be a passing fad, just like so many other approaches.

RtI diagnostic method: "You haven't responded to the third tier of my powerful, research-based interventions, so therefore, you must have a learning disability."


 Traditional (IQ-Discrepancy) Model


Administer IQ and achievement tests. If discrepancy exists, label child as SLD and exclude from peers.


It's the way we've always done it! Paperwork already exists. When so many children are identified as possessing disabilities, a great amount of job security is provided for those in the field.


This model doesn't really seem to work; overidentification and misdiagnosis are relatively common.

IQ-Discrepancy diagnostic method: "You're capable of reading but you're not reading well; you can't remember to complete your homework so you have a memory disorder and a learning disability."


Clinical Model (DSM)


Uses DSM, medications, and clinical techniques to make the world a less unhappy place.


Student can obtain a lifetime of therapy, enroll in anger management classes, get on some pretty heavy duty meds, and as long as there is money available, may receive brain stimulation or psychosurgery.


Uses DSM, meds, clinical techniques, a lifetime of therapy, anger management, medications, brain stimulation, and/or psychosurgery to make the world a less unhappy place; DSM isn't that, um, valid. So many medications have been prescribed that our drinking water is now contaminated with pharmaceuticals.

Clinical/DSM diagnostic method: "you are not reading well so you have ADHD and a reading disorder."


 Neuropsychological Model


Uses the Halstead-Reitan Test Battery or Luria-Nebraska to reveal, you know, previously unknown and invisible relative weaknesses.


Neuropsychs get paid well.


Uses the Halstead-Reitan Test Battery to reveal, you know, previously unknown and invisible relative weaknesses.

Neuropsychological diagnostic method: "you have significant scatter on this test and you don't read well so there's something wrong with your brain."


Real-Life Model (§504/ADA)


Federal program already in place to protect civil rights and provide reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities.


ADA/§504 is already in existence; works well in the real world; if special education was eliminated and replaced with §504 (just like in the rest of America outside the make believe world of education), the taxpayers could save millions or billions of dollars.


Education is an invented environment; the make believe world of special education with made up learning disabilities won't ever go away, therefore, §504 won't become the chosen model.

§504 diagnostic model: "you have a real condition that results in substantial limitations in one or more major life activities so we will provide reasonable accommodations to protect your civil rights."


Positive Psychology Model


Will make the world a happier place; emphasizes optimism and happiness.


Could help millions of Americans, young and old.


Most haven't ever even heard of this model; doesn't seem to fit with the present failure-based, punishing, labeling model of special and general education.

Positive Psychology diagnostic model: "let's find a way for you to succeed."


Rights Without Labels/Noncategorical (RWOL) Model


Provides services to students based on needs -- not on a label.


Provides services to students based on needs -- not on a label. Treats students with respect and dignity.


Psychologists and modern educational systems apparently don't want to give up diagnosis and labels, whether they're valid or not.

RWOL diagnostic model: "you're struggling with reading: I encourage you to choose to keep working with your professional reading teacher to improve your skills... and not to worry, we're not going to call you a bunch horrible invented names."


Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Model


Administers behavioral techniques and interventions to students with intense/severe behavioral needs.


M&M's seem to work well with 1 to 8 students in a small exclusionary special education class for students with severe needs.


Can't adequately address the needs of the other 99% of the students in the school.  

ABA diagnostic model: "The high-priced BCBA and/or BICM will use powerful ABA methods to individually serve just a few of the neediest students in the school."


Other Models


Many more psychological service delivery models exist, including: consultants, program specialists, researchers, authors, existential phenomenologists, reciprocal-determinists, professional educators, crisis interventionists, inservice/workshop presenters/lecturers, counselors, religious based, administrators, WhyTry Leaders, Choice Therapists, Rational Emotive Therapists, Rogerians, and other empowerers.


There exist many ways to help students.


There is always potential risk to harm students when you choose to call them horrible names like impaired, disturbed, disabled, retarded...

Other diagnostic models: "it depends... just like every model, might be helpful for humans or not."

    "How many ways can a man [diagnose LD], singing Hallelujah?"

Green Day, The Static Age

IDEA Regulations for Identifying Children with Learning Disabilities

Since no one will listen to professional educators or scientists, let's see what the law says:

"A State must adopt, consistent with 34 CFR 300.309, criteria for determining whether a child has a specific learning

disability as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10). In addition, the criteria adopted by the State:

  • Must not require the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement for determining

    whether a child has a specific learning disability, as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10);

    [I'm not a lawyer, but here's what this means to me]: You don't have to use the discrepancy model, but you

    can if you want.

  • Must permit the use of a process based on the child's response to scientific, research based intervention; and

    [I'm not a lawyer, but here's what this means to me]: You can use RtI if you want, but you don't have to.

  • May permit the use of other alternative research-based procedures for determining whether a child has a

    specific learning disability, as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10).

    [I'm not a lawyer, but here's what this means to me]: Other options -- and there are many -- can be utilized.

A public agency must use the State criteria adopted pursuant to 34 CFR 300.307(a) in determining whether a child

has a specific learning disability. [34 CFR 300.307] [20 U.S.C. 1221e-3; 1401(30); 1414(b)(6)]"

So, RtI isn't mandated. The traditional model isn't mandated. And in fact, alternatives, such as RWOL, are allowed by law. I'm just pointing out that there are legal and effective alternatives. Maybe your school or district might want to consider one or more of them? You wouldn't have to legislate your philosophy or change any laws. It's almost as if you had local control or real professional freedom... almost. 

Strange Game...

 "Strange game Professor Faulken... the only winning move is not to play."


I was an existentialist for a long time before I ever took my first psychology class. Existentialists ask the penultimate question, "should it even exist?" You know, "to be or not to be?" We are doomed to choose...

To this very day, in Psych 101, the first thing all psychology students learn is to be skeptical and never forget to forward the null hypothesis... in fact, I think this is the first concept introduced to all students learning the soft social sciences.

In Real Language (IRL): are your methods to diagnose and treat LD working? Is there even such a thing as LD?

The obvious multiple-choice question before us:

1. If Program A (traditional) isn't working and Program B (RtI) isn't working, what should occur?

a) Choose Program A

b) Choose Program B

c) Seek a program that works (RWOL)

To me, the answer is quite obviously "c." The traditional model doesn't work and RtI doesn't work. Why do so many continue to choose "a" or "b?" It would be great if we could find a model that effectively diagnosed and served students with LD, if there is such a thing as LD. Many professionals, including myself, don't even believe* there is such a thing as a "learning disability."

*The key word is, "believe." There is no research to indicate LD exists. Go ahead, try to find any peer-reviewed research that proves there is such a thing. Let me know if you find anything... you could win some money - keep reading!


The XOG Editor recognizes that some views presented herein may be new or controversial to readers. However, please be aware that noncategorical models are endorsed by the National Association of School Psychologist (NASP). The reason why you maybe haven't heard of such models is because hardly anyone is using models such as this -- usually, when your kid is struggling with math, you show up to your school and they tell you your kid has a disability, and why wouldn't you believe them... they're the experts, right?

Per Past NASP President, Kevin P. Dwyer:

"Rights Without Labels:" Words or Actions?

by Kevin P. Dwyer, NCSP, Past NASP President and recipient of the NASP Lifetime Achievement Award, in the November, 2006 NASP Communiqué (page 36): "Rights Without labels cannot be just a position paper. It must be a living, working, ethical document shaping the practice of school psychology... Together, nationally, and in each state and community, we need permanent structures to evaluate ourselves and our work to ensure improved outcomes for all... We have a national crisis... Who among us will move to instituting 'Rights Without Labels'?"

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has a position paper on Rights Without Labels (RWOL).

"Let's discuss Jimmy."


What is 'ARWOL'?"

Here's all I'm asking for you to consider. ARWOL is [Asbridge's version of] Rights Without Labels. That's all. It's not rocket science, it's backed by research, and it's already allowed by law:

1) If a student is struggling with reading, let's help him or her learn to read -- there is no need to call him or her a bunch of horrible names like disabled, disordered, disturbed, impaired, retarded, handicapped, etc.

2) Continue to assess students' performance -- the resulting information can help us better understand students leading to effective interventions and services; just don't call him or her LD.

3) Continue to provide powerful and effective interventions -- that's why we all entered education to begin with, to help students, right? Just don't call the kid LD.

4) Implement RWOL in your school or district now.

5) You could start by being honest with parents and students. Develop a form similar to the form above - that might be the only form you would need. Not only are you being honest and providing full, informed parent consent, but you're helping with paperwork reduction too!

Win $10.00!

Enter The XOG's November Challenge. Just be the first to forward any peer reviewed, valid, scientific research that proves there really is such a thing as a learning disability, and you will receive $10.00! Remember, don't just forward a legal definition, or some scatter obtained on your test results. And we're not talking about Traumatic Brain Injuries. Just send some kind of real proof, like a CT Scan, autopsy report, or anything that proves the kid you just called LD because s/he struggles with reading, has anything wrong with their brain. Correlations or brain patterns will not win! The XOG is merely asking for any kind of proof that LD exists, that's all. Any and all entries will be included in future XOGs. In order to receive your winnings, you will need to provide your mailing address (which will of course be kept confidential) so that the XOG Editor can mail you your winnings.

Click here to submit your entry via e-mail... or

Feel free to submit your entry in the Members Area for all to see.

A Great Link

Learning Disability: The Imaginary Disease

Thomas G. Finlan, Publisher: Bergin & Garvey, 1994, 198 pages.

"Chapter 1: LD Means Lousy Diagnosis

We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves.


There is no such thing as a learning disability.

You may think LD exists since more than two million school children have currently been identified with this federally legislated disability, but LD does not exist any more than there are witches in Salem, monsters in Loch Ness, or abominable snowmen in the Himalayas. LD is a movement based on supposition, analogy, and guesswork. There never has been any scientific evidence that LD exists or any evidence that LD programs help students.

Instead, LD theory and practices keep changing to accommodate current research most of which contradicts previous LD guesswork. Why does LD persist? Is there some conspiracy to hide the truth, to keep children in those classes down the hall, to deny them their right to a regular education? Of course not. There doesn't have to be a conspiracy. The control of LD was turned over to a bureaucracy so large and distant that no one is in charge. As the old saying goes, if you want to keep something from getting done, turn it over to a committee; and in the case of children's education, turn it over to the greatest bureaucracy in the world, the U.S. government.


Even though I am convinced there is no such thing as LD, you may see LD as an established fact. if so, ask yourself, "What if there is no such thing as learning disabilities?" instead of the more common question, "What are learning disabilities?" You might be forced to look at learning disabilities differently. As..." (click here to continue)

XOG visitors are encouraged to check out this resource!

Brief Reminder

Hello All,

Just a brief reminder that there are three kinds of persons with disabilities:

1) Those with real disabilities;

2) Those who choose to be disabled or have learned to be helpless (Seligman, Learned Helplessness); and/or

3) Those who have been, um, misdiagnosed with a disability.

Have a nice drive and see you next month,

Miss Diagnosis 

Follow Up to the October XOG

The October XOG started a petition to cut funding to integrate mental health services into the schools.

The XOG gathered: 1 signature.

I don't care if you don't care...

Dear XOG Editor

Dear XOG Editor,

Wow! I loved the October XOG!

Signed, "Fan of XOG"

Dear FOX,

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!

XOG Editor


Dear XOG Editor,

Last month you basically said there is no

such thing as ADHD and many of the DSM

conditions. This month you are saying there

is basically no such thing as LD. Am I correct?

Signed, "Interested Parent"

Dear IP,

Yes, that's basically what I'm saying.

XOG Editor

Dear XOG Editor

Your petition went up in flames.

Signed, "Laughing"

Dear Laughing,

It was, uh, your petition. You could have done

something terrific.

XOG Editor


Any opinions expressed in The XOG are opinions only and are not necessarily approved or endorsed by, um, anyone else, including the XOG Editor. On the other hand, any facts expressed or implied are indeed, facts. Just as is true for everything else in this world, you get to decide what is opinion, what is fact, what is research based, and if and how they may or may not all fit together. Please note that just because something is research based doesn't necessarily make it a fact; and not all facts are research based. Some opinions are facts and research based. Some opinions are not facts, yet are still research based. Just because something is research based does not necessarily make it a fact or ethical. Some facts are facts for some but not for others; the same concept holds true for opinions and research. The same can be said for humor, satire, parody, and serious statements. Some opinions are just opinions. Ultimately, free speech is protected by the first amendment and one thing is always certain... Everything Is.

Click here to send a real letter to the XOG Editor

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