REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE AND STUDIES
To gain proper perspective, background and information as well as better insight on the
problems under study, the researcher made some reading on several studies which have dealt on
the learning disabilities, its types, characteristics and methods, strategies and techniques to
handle learning disabled pupils. Theories, concepts and facts reviewed from books and other
publications which were found to have bearing on the present study as presented in this chapter.
Related studies derived from unpublished thesis and other reference material (foreign or local)
that have provided background orientation and proper direction of the study are also edited.
The category of learning disabilities in special education, its concepts and definitions has
been the subject of much discussions, debates and research in the United States during the part
The term learning disabilities was introduced in 1963 by Samuel kirk, a well-known
American Special Education expert. More than any other area of special education, the area on
learning disabilities has sparked misunderstandings and confusions, disagreements and
controversy among professionals, parents and the general public. At present, the number of
American children identified to be learning disabled has increased greatly. These children now
compose the largest number of children who receive special education services. However, there
are professionals who believe that the number of children includes the low achievers who are
doing poorly in school but do not have learning disabilities. The dramatic increase in the number
of children with learning disabilities in American schools may indicate the true extent of the
condition. (Introduction to Special Education: A textbook for College Students- First Edition by
Inciong et.al. in 2007)
The government’s White Paper ‘Valuing People’ (DoH 2001:14) gives the following
definition of learning disability. Learning disability includes the presence of: a significantly
reduced ability to understand new or complex information to learn new skills (impaired
intelligence) with; a reduced ability to cope independently (impaired social functioning); which
started before adulthood, with lasting effect on development.
Specific learning disability is also known as: dyslexia, specific learning difficulty,
reading disorder, disorder of written expression, mathematics disorder and dyscalculia as cited in
the book of Glynis Hannel’s Identifying Children with Special Needs- Checklists and Action
Plans for Teachers.
Moreover, conferring to Hammill in 1990 as cited by Kauffman and Hallahan, there are
eleven different definitions of learning disabilities that have enjoyed some degree of acceptance
since the field’s inception in the early 1960s. Created by individual professionals and committees
of professionals and lawmakers, each definition provides a slightly different slant. There are four
factors- each of which is included in some definitions, but not all- that have historically caused
considerable controversy. First is IQ- achievement discrepancy; next is presumption of central
nervous system dysfunction, third is psychological processing disorders and; last is learning
problems not due to environmental disadvantage, mental retardation or emotional disturbance.
Learning disability as defined by Rubio (1996), is a condition which inhibits children to
understand oral and written language because they manifest problems in listening, processing
information, talking, reading, writing, spelling or arithmetic. She also added that learning
disability is considered as a hidden disability characterized by poor academic performance;
delayed physical development accompanied by academic, social and psychological problems.
Furthermore, according to Corpuz and Lucas (2007), learning disabilities involve
difficulties in specific cognitive process like perception, language, memory, or metacognition
that are not due to other disabilities like mental retardation, emotional or behavioral disorders or
sensory impairments. Examples of learning disability include dyslexia (reading), dyscalculia
(number operations) and dysgraphia (writing).
According to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as cited in the book of Hannell,
“Specific learning disability” means a disorder in one or more basic psychological processes
involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an
imperfect ability to listen, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations. The term
includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction,
dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not apply to children who have learning
problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, motor disabilities, of mental retardation,
of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. (Code of
Federal Regulations, Title 34, Subtitle b, Chapter III, Section 300.7b-10)
In other words, learners with learning disabilities of LD have difficulty acquiring basic skills or
academic content. Learning disabilities are characterized by intra-individual differences, usually
in the form of a discrepancy between a learner’s ability and his or her achievement in areas such
as reading, writing, mathematics, or speaking. (Managing Children with Special Needs: Learning
Disability, ADHD and Autism- Special Education Handbook)
Learning Disability, long time ago was perceived to be a disorder and seemed to be the
same disorders such as mental retardation, neurological impairment and the worst is brain
dysfunction or brain damage. Way back, when this term is not that clear and well defined really,
parents or family members seek and prayed for miracle that their child or children be cured by
their almighty powers. They were all desperate as a true concerned parent would also do. This
term is long been debated for years. There were a lot of problems and issues to be resolved for a
lot of fads and misbeliefs were very rampant.
In 1940, medical research limited to studying the function of brain damaged or brain-
injured people. (Managing Children with Special Needs: Learning Disability, ADHD and
Autism- Special Education Handbook)
Then later on, in 1960s, in a parents’ meeting in New York was held according to
Kaufman and Hallahan in 1991. In this year, they added that Samuel Kirk proposed this term as a
compromise because of the confusing variety of labels then being describe the child with
relatively normal intelligence who was having learning problems. Before, such a child was likely
to be referred to as being minimally brain injured, a slow learner, dyslexic or perceptual disabled.
With this concept, marks another revolution in the said disability.
It was also in 1963, that learning disabilities was coined and used. It was the Formation
of Association for Children with Learning Disabilities or ACLD coined the term and first used it.
(Managing Children with Special Needs: Learning Disability, ADHD and Autism- Special
Education Handbook) Hence, in this time marks the official coinage and usage of the said term.
Moreover, after five years, in 1968, that was only the time when they have written
articles and write-ups about the definition of learning disability. (Managing Children with
Special Needs: Learning Disability, ADHD and Autism- Special Education Handbook)
Yes, it was only in this year that they have started to write about the disability. The term is very
broad, and there are a lot of things and facts can be connected with the term. Thus, the defined
term limits and narrowed down informations about learning disability.
In 1970, wanes a medical research specifically in United States of America where it was
first coined and used. The terms used back then are: Neurologically impaired, minimal brain
dysfunction and injury, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, aphasia, perceptual handicapped and
hyperactive. Learners with learning disability served in resource room. (Managing Children with
Special Needs: Learning Disability, ADHD and Autism- Special Education Handbook)
However, many parents as well as teachers believed the label minimal brain dysfunction and
injury to be problematic. Minimal brain injury refers to individuals who show behavioral but not
neurological, signs of brain injury. They exhibit behaviors (e.g., distractibility, hyperactivity, and
perceptual disturbances) similar to those with real brain injury, but their neurological
examinations are indistinguishable from those of nondisabled individuals. The diagnosis of
minimal brain injury was sometimes dubious because it was based on questionable behavioral
evidence rather than more solid neurological data. Also, the label often carried with it the notion
of reversibility, leading some professionals to give up on trying to change such children’s
behavior. Moreover, it was not educationally meaningful label because such a diagnosis offered
little real help in planning and implementing treatment. The term slow learner described the
child’s performance in some areas but not in others – and besides, intelligence testing indicated
that the ability to learn existed. Dyslexic, too, fell short as definitive terms because it described
only reading disabilities and many of these children had problems in other academic areas such
as math. To describe a child as perceptual disabled just confused the issue further, for perceptual
problems might be only part of a puzzling inability to learn. So it was finally around the
educationally oriented term learning disabilities that the New York parents’ group rallied to
found the Association for Children with Learning Disabilities, now known as the Learning
Disabilities Association of America. Following the lead of the parents, a few years after, the
professionals officially recognized the term by forming the Division for Children with Learning
Disabilities, now called the Division for Learning Disabilities, of the Council for Exceptional
Children, the major professional organization concerned with the education of exceptional
children. (Exceptional Children Introduction to Special Education Fifth Edition)
In the book Managing Children with Special Needs, a special education handbook,
connotes that, in 1975, Public Law 94-142 passed a law that states that- “All children be
provided free and appropriate, public education in the least restrictive environment.”
While in 1990, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA extends and refines
services to individuals with disabilities. It was also in this year when medical research has
renewed interest in learning disability as a result of the availability of new technologies. During
also this year, that genetic studies begin. And the term used were reading disability, writing
disability, and math disability which are also the same with dysgraphia, dyslexia and dyscalculia.
Learners with learning disability also served then in inclusive settings.
In the Philippines, special education for children with learning disabilities is only its early
years of implementation. Unlike the special education programs for children with mental
retardation, giftedness and talented, visual and hearing impairments, and behavior problems that
date back to the 1950s, there are very few schools all over the country that have started to offer
programs for children with learning disabilities. (Introduction to Special Education: A textbook
for College Students- First Edition by Inciong et.al. in 2007)
The birth of the field of the field of learning disabilities was influenced by parents and
professionals who sought a concept that would deal each child’s unique learning style by
addressing individual strengths and weaknesses. It was important to them that teachers focus not
only on what children could not do but also on what they could not do and how they might learn
best. They urged that characteristics of the academic tasks required of children, and the settings
in which children studied be altered in order to further their learning. By living and working with
these children, they understood that whether child’s particular strength became assets or whether
weaknesses became liabilities dependent on how specific child, task, and setting characteristics
influenced one another. This multidimensional, individualized perspective was a marked
departure from special education classification, grouping and instructional practices at the time.
This focus on individual needs was spurred on by a number of researchers who reported some
children’s learning weakness and in fact had raised their intellectual capabilities. The learning
disabilities concept also had particular appeal to parents who wanted to avoid the stigma of
having their children called mentally retarded. (Smith, 1991)
Learning Difficulties, Disability and Labelling
Disability is itself a form of social oppression; it is ―the restriction imposed on top of
our impairments by the way our society is organised‖ (Sheldon,2004:69). Alison Sheldon states
that ―all disabled people‖ are subject to it (Sheldon,2004:69) and it is thereby further fuelled by
oppressive practices and perpetuated by negative attitudes (Barnes and Mercer, 2004: Campbell
and Oliver,1996). To explore the issues relating to learning difficulties and parenting, this project
will implement a social model‘ framework of disability (Oliver,1983). It will differentiate
between labelling‘ of an individuals‘ accredited impairment, prioritising instead, the economic
and societal factors that contribute to the creation of disability‘ and the ongoing oppression and
discrimination of disabled people per se.
Learning Disabled Learners
The most recent survey of provision (LSC 2005) shows that there are some 579,000
learners with a self-declared learning difficulty or disability enrolled in the whole learning and
skills sector, representing 11% of the full-time equivalent student body. Of this group, around
70% are adults. It is important to remember, however, that not all students with a disability will
experience difficulties in learning, and so the group with whom we are concerned represents only
a proportion of this number. That said,
over the last 30 years the learner group has not only grown in size but has changed in
complexity, gradually widening to include students with a wider range of difficulties in learning.
These learners all experience generalised difficulties in learning arising from a range of
cognitive, physical and/or sensory impairments as well as social disadvantage. Of course, as
Norwich and Kelly (2005:48) point out, it is important to remember that the concept of learning
difficulties is contested by those who see the term as socially constructed. But, as Norwich and
Kelly also conclude, the depth of disagreement varies in inverse proportion to the severity of the
difficulty: ‘More disagreements are found with difficulties in learning which are not so different
from the average.’
Consequently, the term ‘learning difficulties’ is hard to define and is used differently for
different purposes by different people in different contexts. For example, within the post-
compulsory sector there have been various attempts over the years to identify the number of
learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities in further and adult education in order to
judge equality of opportunity as well as establish a framework for allocating resources. Surveys
of further education provision have relied on the use of traditional categories of learning
difficulty and disabilities (FEFC 1997, LSC 2005) and data from management information
system statistics, eg moderate learning difficulties, mental health problems, autism, dyslexia.
Figures resulting from these surveys must be treated with caution, however, since they rely on
self-declaration or on local interpretations of these terms.
Legal definitions are based on Warnock’s (DES 1978) view that there is a continuum of
difficulties in learning that spans the general population. The 1992 Further and Higher Education
Act (and retained by the 2000 Learning and Skills Act) adopted the1981 Education Act’s
definition of learning difficulties as when ‘a person… has a significantly greater difficulty in
learning than the majority of persons of his age’ (Section 4(6)–(7) Further and Higher Education
Act 1992). An individual’s difficulties in learning are therefore conceived as relative to those
difficulties experienced by others. However, no statutory means exist within the post-compulsory
sector to identify young people and adults who do or do not have difficulties in learning as
measured against such a norm. Social services, on the other hand, use the term ‘learning
disabilities’ to describe a narrower band of people who receive their support from within this
broader group described by commentators in education as having learning difficulties. Other
terms in use include ‘intellectual impairments’ and ‘developmental disabilities’.
Studies of adults with ‘learning disabilities’ show that between 50% and 90% have
communication difficulties, while a total population study showed that between 5% and 15%
present severe challenging behaviour (Emerson, 2001). So, the broad categorisation of learning
difficulties belies many complex issues, including cultural differences in interpretation.
There is a strong genetic component in the development of a Specific Learning
Disability. At least 50% of students with a Specific Learning Disability have a first-degree
relative with a similar disorder.The difficulties with acquisition of basic skills in reading, written
language, or mathematics are caused by irregularities in the way the brain processes information.
(Glynis Hannel’s Identifying Children with Special Needs- Checklists and Action Plans for
But according to Managing Children with Special Needs: Learning Disability, ADHD
and Autism- Special Education Handbook
Errors in Fetal Brain Development
Throughout pregnancy, the fetal brain develops a few all-purpose
cells into a complex organ made of billions of specialized, interconnected nerve
cells called neurons. During this amazing evolution, things can go wrong that may
alter how the neurons form or interconnect.
It the early stages of pregnancy, the brain stem forms. It controls basic life
functions such as breathing and digestion. Later, a deep ridge divides the
cerebrum, the thinking part of the brain- into halves, a right and left hemisphere.
Finally, the areas involved with processing sight, sound, and other senses develop,
as well as, the areas associated with attention, thinking and emotion.
As new cells form, they move into place to create various brain structures,
nerve cells rapidly grow to form networks with other parts of the brain. These
networks are what allow information to be shared among various regions of the
Throughout pregnancy, this brain development is vulnerable to
disruptions. If the disruption occurs early, the fetus may die, or the infant may be
born with widespread disabilities and possibly mental retardation. If the
disruption occurs later, when the cells are specialized and moving into place, it
may be leave errors in the cell make-up, location, or connections. Some scientists
believed that these errors may later show up as learning disorder.
The fact that learning disabilities tend to run in families indicates that
there may be a genetic link. For example, children who lack some of the skills
needed for reading, such as hearing the separate sounds of words, are likely to
have a parent with a related problem. However, a parent’s learning disability may
take a slightly different form in the child. A parent who was a writing disorder
may have a child with an expressive language disorder. For this reason, it seems
unlikely to hat specific learning disability are inherited directly. Possibly, what is
inherited is a subtle brain dysfunction that can in turn lead to a learning disability.
There may be an alternative explanation for why LD might seem to run in
families. Some learning difficulties may actually stem from the family
environment. For example, parents who have expressive language disorders might
talk less to their children or the language they may be distorted. In such cases, the
child lacks a good model for acquiring language and therefore, may seem to be
Tobacco, Alcohol and other Drug Use
Many drugs taken by the mother passes directly to the fetus. Research
shows that a mother’s use of cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs during pregnancy
may have damaging effects on the unborn child. Therefore, to prevent potential
harm to developing babies, the U.S. Public Health Service supports efforts to
make people become aware of the possible dangers of smoking, drinking and
Scientists have found that mothers who smoke during pregnancy may be
more likely to bear smaller babies. This is a concern because small newborns,
usually those weighing less than five pounds, tend to be at risk for a variety of
problems, including learning disorders.
Alcohol also may be dangerous to the fetus’ developing brain. It appears
that alcohol may distort the developing neurons. Heavy alcohol use during
pregnancy has been linked to fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition that can lead to
low birth weight, intellectual impairment, hyperactivity, and certain physical
defects. Any alcohol use during the pregnancy, however, may influence the
child’s development and lead to problems with learning, attention, memory, or
problem solving. Because patients have not yet identified “safe” levels, alcohol
should be used cautiously by women who are pregnant or who may soon become
Problems During Pregnancy or Delivery
Other possible causes of learning disabilities involve complications during
pregnancy. In some cases, the mother’s immune system reacts to the ferns and
attacks it as if it were an infection. This type of disruption seems to cause newly
formed brain cells to settle in the wrong part of the brain. Or during delivery, the
umbilical cord may become twisted and temporarily cut off oxygen to the fetus.
This, too, can impair brain functions and lead to learning disability,
Toxins in the Child’s Environment
New brain cells and neutral networks continue to be produced for a year or
so after the child is born. These cells are vulnerable to certain disruptions also.
Researchers are looking into environmental toxins that may lead to
learning disabilities, possibly by disrupting childhood brain development or brain
process. Cadmium and lead, both prevalent in the environment, are becoming a
leading focus of neurological research. Cadmium, used in making some steel
products, can get into the soil, then into the food we eat. Lead was once common
in paint and gasoline, and is still present in some water pipes. A study of animals
sponsored by the National Institute of Health showed a connection between
exposure to lead and learning difficulties. In the study, rats exposed to lead
experienced changes in their brain waves, slowing their ability to learn. The
learning problems lasted for weeks, long after the rats were no longer exposed to
Facts and Misconceptions about Learning Disability
According to Kauffman and Hallahan of 1991 in their book “Exceptional
Children Introduction to Special Education, Fifth Edition”, they sited that the following
are the myths of about persons with learning disability leveled with the facts about
learning disabled person.
First, they stated that all learning disabled children have brain damage. Although
more learning disabled children show solid evidence of damage to the central nervous
system than their nondisabled peers, many of them do not. Many authorities now refer to
learning disabled children as having central nervous system dysfunction, which indicates
a malfunctioning of the brain rather than actual tissue damage. Some professionals hold
that even the use of the term dysfunction is problematic because it is diagnosis is not
Second, they said that it is valuable for the teacher to know whether the child’s
learning disability is due to brain damage. Although the diagnosis of brain injury may be
important for the medical professional, educators gain no useful information from it.
Third, they told that a child who is mixed dominant (e.g. right-handed, left-eyed,
left-footed, and right-eared) will have a learning disability. Although there is a slight
tendency for mixed dominance to occur more frequently in learning-disabled children,
many children who are mixed-dominant learn normally.
Fourth, they sited that all learning-disabled children have perceptual problems.
Although perceptual problems are more frequent in learning-disabled children, many do
not have them.
Fifth, hyperactive children’s most serious problem is excessive motor activity.
Although hyperactive children do exhibit excessive motor activity, most authorities now
believe their most fundamental problems lie in the area of inattention.
Sixth, using drugs to control hyperactivity is simply a matter of the physician
prescribing the right pill. To use drugs effectively is a highly complex affair. The parents,
physician, teacher, and child must maintain close communication to monitor the drug’s
Seventh, professionals and parents need not to be concerned about learning-
disabled children’s social and emotional well-being because their problems are in
learning not social adjustment. Many children with learning disabilities also developed
problems in the social-emotional area. We may have a tendency to overlook this fact
because pf our emphasis on the learning problems of learning-disabled children.
Programming for these students also needs to address their social adjustment.
Eight, learning-disabled students’ exhibit disorders of language, reading and
writing much more that problems in math. Math problems are more prevalent than was
once thought. It has been estimated that two out of three learning-disabled children
receive special instruction in math and one out of four receives special education services
primarily because of math problems.
Ninth, perceptual and perceptual motor training will automatically lead to
academic gains (e.g. in reading). There is very little research to support the notion that
such training will automatically lead to academic gains. The most that can be said, and
the research is equivocal even on this, is that perceptual training may increase perceptual
skills, which ca then serve as the basis for academic remediation.
Tenth, most learning-disabled children outgrow their disabilities as adults. Most
learning-disabled adults still have some learning difficulties, especially in reading and
spelling. With intensive and long-term intervention, however, many learning-disabled
adults lead successful and productive lives. More nd more learning-disabled students are