Scientists and researchers have not been able to agree on defining what constitutes a learning disability. The difficulty in determining a universal term is reflected in multiple terms used interchangeably. The most widely accepted and used definitions exclude certain conditions. And it can be considered ambiguous as it defines characteristics in terms of capabilities, processes, and achievement without distinction between these terms. The only constant criterion is the inconsistency criterion, which is the discrepancy between talent and achievement. In this context, it is important to point out the differences in conceptualization ability and academic achievement.
Today, the scientific community says that learning disability is a distinct obstacle that manifests in students with low academic achievement. They also seem to agree that it is a developmental barrier that affects individuals throughout their lives and is a product of it. There is an interaction between environmental factors determined by sociocultural conditions and genetic and environmental contributing factors. Interventions that address learning difficulties are not always evidence-based, interventions may be influenced by socio-economic conditions and policy decisions. As a result, instead of trying to diagnose learning difficulties differently, it is necessary to approach them with a holistic and systems-based approach.
The scientific community is that learning difficulties are a distinct barrier to manifest in students with low academic achievement. They seem to agree that it is a developmental disability that affects individuals throughout their lives and is a product of interaction. It is among the genetic and environmental contributing factors that environmental factors are determined by sociocultural conditions. Interventions that address learning difficulties are not always evidence-based, and interventions may be influenced by socio-economic conditions and policy decisions. As a result, instead of trying to diagnose learning difficulties differently, it is necessary to approach them with a holistic and systems-based approach.
Uncertainties in the Field
Until the 1960s, no attention was paid to education and learning difficulties. However, with the exception of legal compulsory education, the study of the dropout phenomenon and the development of the knowledge-based character of the school, none other than learning difficulties led to the creation of a new classification category. School success is related to an individual’s subsequent social and professional success. Considering that the learning level is related to individuals with potential for success due to the high cognitive skills attributed to this, it also contributed to the creation of this different category. Over time, this perception has strengthened and learning difficulties become the most important category of special education. An important indicator of this is that programs for children with learning disabilities bring together the highest number of students with special educational needs.
2.5 million of the American school students, approximately 5% of the total public school enrollments in 2009, were identified with learning disabilities. These students represent 42% of 5.9 million school-age children. This percentage varies by country, for example, 3.18% of students in Kentucky fall into the specific learning disability category, while in Massachusetts and Port Island the corresponding figures are 9% and 9.6%. Today, similar variations are observed both in Canada and in certain European countries. Prevalence diversity reflects several factors such as the diversity of the population belonging to this category, and there is increasing school pressure for higher achievement leading to higher standards. In addition to the different criteria used for evaluation of success, they are the criteria applied to define the area of learning difficulties.
The existence of such determinants has caused the proportion of students with learning difficulties to fluctuate across US states. Consequently, learning difficulties represent the widest area in special education. Over time, various definitions have been formulated, attempting to show the main characteristics of the field. However, each is ambiguous, figurative, negative and tautological, overly broad or restrictive according to its positive. Each subsequent definition has tried to fix the previous ones. Their analysis is therefore imperative, not for the purpose of creating a new definition, but to broaden the definition and, in particular, to gain an understanding of what learning disabilities actually are. The term learning disability was coined by Kirk, who also developed his first definition.
This definition is the first to introduce the concept of disorders in psychological processes in academic learning. Nevertheless, ambiguities in the description of the field can still be found in this definition. For example, mentions of these inadequacies refer to retardation, impairment, or delay but does not continue to identify any difference between these terms. The definition also reveals the element of exclusion from other deficiency conditions, suggesting the differential diagnosis. However, exclusion is not a criterion for identifying characteristics that distinguish learning disabilities from other conditions. Despite its ambiguities, Kirk’s definition pointed to the establishment of new learning difficulties and became the basis of every official definition in the United States. Recognizing learning difficulties as an independent scientific field requires the adoption of an operational definition that would define its scope as a separate category of special education.