Specific Learning Disabilities: Identified And Clarified (definition, Data Base, Conceptual Model)

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Educat.D.)


In 1963 the term, Learning Disabled was introduced by Samuel Kirk to a group of parents of perceptually handicapped/brain injured children (Kirk, 1977). To this date the most controversial issue in the field of learning disabilities is the definition. The confusion that exists regarding the definition is well documented both prior to and since the current definition was published in the 1977 Federal Register. Progress in research, funding, and program development is contingent upon the resolution of the definition issue. The purpose of this project was to conduct a systematic examination of the literature from 1970 - 1980 which would update the work done in the 1960's in search of a data base and a conceptual model for defining the population, learning disabled. Three hundred seventy-four references were chosen as addressing the definition issue. The references chosen addressed the definition issue either in the title, abstract, or body of the article or text. Twelve charts were formulated to show trends in research emphasis and a data base of agreement vs. disagreement and known vs. unknown factors. A conceptual model was drawn from a summary of the reported research findings of the authors. The conceptual model formulated from the findings of this project suggest that a neurological condition will be found in the presence of a learning disability. The neurological condition will lead to a deficit in one or more of the process areas and then result in a deficit or deficits in academic and/or behavioral performance. The evidence from the literature search suggests that the current definition does contain all the necessary elements for identification of a learning disability population; but, to be usable, the definition needs to be operationally defined and developed into a subgroup classification model as has been done in the fields of medicine and psychology. The specific categories and symptoms for each remain to be identified and researched. The next step for researchers is the development of such a model.


Education, Special

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