Specific learning disabilities

INTRODUCTION

Specific learning disabilities is a term used for individual who have average or above average but have a disorder in those psychological processes that are involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in imperfect ability to listen, write, speak, read, spell or do mathematical calculation. As it is of a recent origin, there is no agreed upon definition for the learning disabled.

Dr. Samuel Kirk (1963) coined the term learning disabilities. He was one of the pioneers in the field of specific education. He coined this term in an attempt to provide a functional definition.

Kirk was concerned with the need for a label that would be useful for research, behavior management or training for people who had certain kinds of disabilities. Parents have initiated much of the progress made in this field because their children has been considered as mentally retarded but were failing in school especially in reading, spelling and mathematics. They had normal or above average intelligence and they showed a variety of behavior problems. The power of organized parents groups is evident with the history of SLD. Children are said to be like wet clay ready to be molded into any shape no matter what physical or mental conditions they are in. they generally have e-zest for life and infectitutious enthusiasm zeal to learn about everything and to learn every new skill given the right opportunity, the children have a great ability for adaptation. It is rightly said "child is the father of man" (Gadeyne et al.(2004) , Gans et al. (2003) ).

SLD children have behavior problems and that they are physically and psychologically obstructive (Gelfand & Jension, 1998), (Gadeyne et al.; 2004) (Edgar E.B.). The general consensus about SLD children is that they show a wide range of behaviors along with average tested intelligence and failure to learn to read. These behaviors include hyperactivity, clumsiness, lack of social behaviors appropriates to their age level, poor and short attention span, inability to follow multi level direction, and memory deficit is generally exhibited by SLDs and continuation of the same behavior in spite of it become obsolete. Perceptual of non-verbal social communication tends to be less accurate (Gadeyne et al.; 2004)

NSLD adolescents have tendency to follow the dictates of their hearts and feelings rather than that of logic. Therefore, the researcher believes that this confirms the view that today's younger generation is stressed and in turmoil during the adolescent stage of their life. Additionally, research finding of Ahmad Khan et al.(2005) have suggested in their study, "psychological autopsy of suicide", that more number of young children experience suicidal ideation and many commit suicide for reasons raging from parental scolding to failure in exams or similar such stressful events. This study was conducted at mortuary of Forensic department of Gandhi General Hospital, Secunderabad. Kumar et al(2000) have mentioned in there study of psychosocial and clinical factors associated with adolescents suicide attempts increase markedly during adolescence.

Loony & Oldham(1985), in their article "Normal adolescents development" (as cited by Kalpan et al. in comprehensive textbook of psychiatry." ), have written that, "the most dramatic change during adolscents are dependent children, at the end they relinquensh their dependence on their parents and become capable of forming lasting relationships of maturity, tenderness and sexual expression with age mates. Adults find it difficult to communicate with adolescents (pp.1711).

Some of the terms used synonymously with LD are minimal brain Dysfunction, brain injured, and learning language disability and perceptually handicapped. Now learning disabilities is called specific learning disabilities. It is an umbrella term or a general education term, which encompasses a variety of specific type of problems.

The learning disabled are children who suffer a deficit in psychological processing of information. Whether the cause is inhibition of the development of the processes or an interference with these processes has not been determined. As of now, the focus should be on the current behavior to alter the inappropriate behaviors and increase the desired behaviors (Eugene B.Edgar, year not known)

According to ICD-10 S.L.D is been called the specific learning disabilities of scholastic skills and it is classified into six categories. These are disabilities in which normal patterns of skill acquisition were distributed from the early stages of development and it is not a consequence of a lack of opportunity to learn. It is, also, not solely a result of mental retardation and not due to any form of acquired brain trauma or disease. ICD lists the various types of learning disabilities as-specific reading disability, specific spelling disability, specific disabilities of arithmetic skills, mixed disorder of scholastic skills.

According to DSM-IV " learning disorder are diagnosed when the individual's achievement on individually administered, standardized tests in reading, mathematics, or written expression is substially below what is expected for the age schooling, and the level of intelligence. The learning problems significantly interfere with academic achievement or activities of daily living that require reading, mathematical, or writing skills. A variety of statistical approaches can be used to establish that a discrepancy is significant.substainlly below is usually defined as a discrepancy of more than 2 standard deviation between achievement and IQ. A smaller discrepancy between achievement and IQ (i.e. between 1 and 2 standard deviations) is sometimes used, specially in case where an individual's performance on an IQ test may have been compromised by an associated disorder in cognitive processing, a co-morbid mental disorder or a general medical condition, or the individual's ethic or cultural back ground. If a sensory deficit is present, the learning difficulties must be in excess of those usually associated with the deficit Learning disorder may persist into adulthood.

IDEA-individual with disabilities education acts(2004); the definition provided in US federal code( section 300.7 (10) of 34 CFR parts 300 and 303) ; "the term means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological process involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and development aphasia. Such term does not include leaning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural or economical disadvantage"

It will be important to note that SLD does not involve children having learning problems due to visual, hearing or motor handicaps, mental retardation, environmental, cultural, or economical disadvantage or emotional disturbance. It becomes evident by the age 4-5 years in India because children go to school at early age. Boys are more prone to it than girls (Gelfand, Jenison, & drew).

It includes such condition as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, and minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

According to national council for education, research and training (NCERT), 10% of school going children suffer from S.L.D but not been properly diagnosed. Their problem is generally confused with learning problems.

There are different types of learning disabilities (Maria Chivers (www.amazon.co.uk,no date); dyslexia - "dyslexia means having difficulty with words in reading, spelling and writing- in spite of having normal intelligence and ability" (Dr J.E. Cullis, 1992). Dyslexia in the UK is a registered disability under the chronically sick and Disabled Person Act 1970, Education Act 1993, and Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995; Dysgraphia- it's a inability to write properly despite a student being given adequate time and attention. The main sign of dysgraphia is a student's handwriting which will be barely legible; Dycalculia- dycalculia is a specific learning difficulty in mathematics. It refers specially to the inability to perform operation in math's and could be described as an extreme difficulty with numbers. Not much is known about this condition. More research is taking place and it is hoped that over the next few years a better understanding would be acquired of this condition. Similarly we have Dyspraxia it is a serious impairment in the development of motor or movement coordination that cannot be explained solely in term of mental retardation or any other specific inherited or acquired neurological disorder. If the child persistently continues to fall over and is clumsy well after the age his/her friends have stooped doing it, the child is known to have dyspraxia. It is not certain what causes dyspraxia but it is though to be due to an immaturity in neuron development in the brain. (Maria Chivers, www.amazon.co.uk). The causes of L.D. are not yet known but it could be hereditary, cerebral dominance, abnormality in the cognitive processing, impairment in simultaneous processing, neurological damage during the pre\postal natal stages.

World health organization (WHO) defines adolescents as individual as individual who are between childhood and adulthood and in the process of reaching sexual maturity. Accordingly, the age range of adolescence is the second decade of life, i.e. 10-19 years (WHO\HBSC forum, 2007). However it must be recognized that adolescence is a combination of physical, psychological and social changes which are culturally based. Adolescence is not a simple transition- manifestations of its complexity can be confused with pathological states. Furthermore, when adolescents have or are suffering from some disability, the complexities get multiplied. Only in recent years the interest of research has shifted to adolescents and their problems (Looney & Oldham 2000). The bodily changes that accompany sexual maturity are a source of both pride and embarrassment. How comfortable the adolescents feel with his\her new physique and urges that accompany it depend largely on the attitudes toward sexual development conveyed by their parents and peers. The process of emancipation from parental authority and from emotional dependence upon parents is greatly accelerated during these years. In order to function effectively as an adult the adolescent must begin to detach oneself from the family and develop independence must begin to detach oneself from the family and develop independence in behaviour, emotional, values and beliefs (Atkinson & Atkinson, pp.93)

Some major pressure on the adolescents today are learning new material, learning to think in new ways, requires the ability to use abstract reasoning, establish his or her own identity as an individual and finally deciding how to earn a living. These pressures multiply when an adolescent child has to bear the added burden of learning difficulties. These difficulties affect the growing personality of children as development is a continuous, lifelong process. The earlier a disability is detected or diagnosed the better services and remedial help can be provided to the adolescent. (Looney and Oldham 2000). Very few studies are available regarding the adolescents who identified with S.L.D. maximum research work in this field has done from an education point of view (McNutt et all., 1985). The psychological and personality aspects are in their beginning stages.

The study of personality started very late in the history of psychology. Only by 1930s it had become formalized and systemized in the American psychology, primarily through the work of Henry Murray and Gordon Allport. The term "personality" derived from Latin word "persona" which refers to a mask used by actors in a play. Based on its derivation one can conclude that personality refers to external and visible characteristics, those that other people can see. Thus it can be defined in terms of the impression one makes on other (Shultz and Shultz, 2001)

When people say "I", they sum up everything about themselves- their likes and dislikes, fears and virtues, strength and weakness. The word "I suggests that an individual is a person separate from all others. It encompasses a host not be able to see directly, or that a person may try to hide from others. Personality refers to the pattern of psychological and behavior characteristics that distinguishes each person from every1 else. It consists of distinctive patterns of behavior (including thoughts and emotions) that characterize a person's adaptation to the situations of his/her life (Mischel, 1976).

Personality can be described as consistent behavior patterns and intrapersonal process originating within the individual. It has bee studied as six different approaches as- psychoanalytic approaches, trait approach, biological approach, humanistic approach, behavioral/social learning theories, cognitive approach. These diverse theories pf personality can be explained through the story of blind men who encounter and elephant. Each feels a different part of the animal and tries to explain to others what an elephant is like. They all have different images of the elephant depending on the specific part being touched and experienced. People who work in the field of personality align themselves with one or another of the six approaches as they decide which of the competing explanations they accept.

According to Gordon Allport (1937), "personality is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustment to his environment." (As cited by Shultz & Shultz, 2001, pp.38).

There is no difference in the personality makeup of adolescents with and without "specific learning disabilities". The researcher is interested in studying the effect of learning disability on the developing personality of the adolescence. There are many studies done in the field of specific learning disabilities, but related to the topic, only three studies are conducted by sood (1994), permutter et al. (1983) and Alexander et al. (2003). There have been studies related to different characteristics of children with SLD that can be categorized into needs, pressures, emotional and inner states. These studies have been conducted in the areas of depression and depressive symptoms, emotional\behavioral problems, self perception, motivation, adjustment, suicide and suicide risk, social information processing and psychosocial functioning.

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