An Introduction to Learning-Disabilities (LD)

Understanding learning disabilities (LD) can be very difficult for people in the general public to understand. I have written about the topic many times over the years and I am still amazed by the number of differences that can impact people with disabilities. I also find myself amazed by the way my own disabilities have changed over the course of my life. These changes at times work for my benefit and at other times they work against me.

In 2009, I wrote a paper that explains some of this. An excerpt of the paper (with a minor update) follows:

“On July 26, 1990, then President George Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). NCLB was reauthorized by the Obama Administration as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). According to the U.S. Department of Education (2013) this reformation did the following:

(1) Improving teacher and principal effectiveness;

(2) Providing information to families to help them evaluate and improve their children’s schools;

(3) Implementing college- and career-ready standards; and

(4) Improving student learning and achievement in America’s lowest-performing schools by providing intensive support and effective interventions.

Nationally, a learning disability/ difference (LD) is described as a condition that either prevents or considerably hinders an individual’s ability to take in, organize, and/or act on information their brains receive through the senses, even though the individual may be at average to above average intelligence (Mercer, Jordan, Allsopp, & Mercer, 1996).  A learning disability can be the result of a physical impairment, mental impairment or both a physical and mental impairment.  It is important to note that a learning disability does not have to be the result of a physical or mental impairment.

Subsequent to IDEA, Bartlett v. New York State Board of Law Examiners, 1998 U.S. App. LEXIS 22361, the Supreme Court of New York City affirmed a lower court decision concerning how an individual with an LD can prove they have a disability in order to receive accommodations (Rothstein, 1998).  Based on the ruling, an individual can show that they have a disability by providing evidence that impairment exists or by proving a history concurrent with having a disability.  An individual suffering from an LD must show that the impairment meets two specific definitions, 1) they must have a major activity hindered by the disability and 2) they must be substantially limited in their ability to complete that activity.”

The difficulty that I faced as an individual with an LD was that I had very little understanding of what other people experienced. This meant that I did not have the ability to explain to my teachers how I was hindered or limited. This is not uncommon. Many students suffer in silence, marginalized by their very inability to communicate what is necessary to help them get the assistance they need.  This is the biggest reason it is so important for us to act as a community. Parents, legislators, school administrators, educators, theorists, researchers and advocates in the LD community need to work together to better understand differences and to develop tools that individuals can use to help them to better help themselves.

I welcome your comments, feedback and experiences. References are supplied to provide you with an opportunity to research these things on your own. If you have information you would like to see posted or discussed, feel free to reach out.


Bloom, B., & Cohen, R. A. (2007). Summary health statistics for U.S. children: National health interview survey. Hattysville: National Health Interview Statistics.

Bigge, M. L., & Shermis, S. S. (1999). Learning Theories for Teachers. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.

Curry College. (2004). Benefits of PAL. Retrieved June 10, 2008, from Curry College:

d’Almeida, A. C. (2007). Review on performance-pay for teachers literature. Denver: Educator Sub-Committer of Governor Ritter’s P-20 COuncil in Colorado.

Education, C. D. (Updated: 2007). K-12 Academic Standards. Retrieved February 22, 2008, from Colorado Department of Education:

Flanagan, D. P., Ortiz, S. O., Alfonzo, V. C., & Dynda, A. M. (2006). Integration of response toIntervention and norm-referenced tests in learning disability identification: Learning from the tower of Babel. Psychology in the Schools , v43 n7 p807-825.Gagne, R. M., Wager, W. W., Golaas, K. C., & Keller, J. M. (2005). Principles of instruction, 5th edition. Belmont: Wadsworth/ Thompson Learning.

Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the brain in mind 2nd edition. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Levine, M. (2002). A mind at a time: America’s top learning expert shos how every child can succeed. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.

McDonald, K. E., Balcazar, F. E., & Keys, C. B. (2007). Disability, race/ethnicity and gender: Themes of cultural oppression, acts of individual resistance. American Journal of Community Psychology , 39, 145 – 161.

McDonald, K. E., Blacazar, F. E., & Keys, C. B. (2005). Youth with disabilities. In.D.DuBois&Karcher (Eds.) hanbbook of youth mentoring. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

Mercer, C. D., Jordan, L., Allsopp, D. H., & Mercer, A. A. (1996). Learning disabilities definitions and criteria used by state education departments. Learning Disabilities Quarterly , Vol. 19, No.4, pp. 217-232.

Putnum/Northern WEstchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services. (n.d.). The gifted-handicapped mentor program. Yorktown Heights: Author.

Roeper Review Fall. (2003). Mentoring empowers gifted/learning disabled students to soar!(On gifted students in school). Roeper Review .

Rousso, H. (2003). Education for all: A gender and disabilities perspective. US: Education for All Global Monitoring Report.

Rothstein, L. F. (1998, September 17). ADA requires bar examiners to provide accommodations or applicant with learning disability. Retrieved May 19, 2008, from Health Law and Policy Institute:

Solomon, L. C., & Podgursky, M. (2000). The pros and cons of performance-based compensation. Missouri: Milkin Family Foundation.

Taylor, K., & Walton, S. (1997). Co-opting standarized tests in the service of learning. Phi Delta Kappan , Vol. 78.

Taylor, K., & Walton, S. (2001, March). Who is norm and what’s he doing in my class? Norm- and criterion-referenced tests: The differences. Retrieved

February 22, 2008, from

Walsh, K. (2001). Teacher certification reconsidered: Stumbling for quality. Baltimore: Abell

Foundation. Whitmore, J. (1981). Gifted children with handicapping conditions: A new frontier. Exceptional Children , 48(2), 106-114.


2 comments on “An Introduction to Learning-Disabilities (LD)

  1. social media says:

    This really is a good website. It has great content and the design is beautiful. You have some very nice ideas.

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