Position Paper of the Learning Disabilities Association
Approved October 27, 2006 by LDA Board of Directors
The Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) is a not
for profit organization chartered in 1964, to advance the education
and general welfare of individuals with Specific Learning Disabilities
(SLD). LDA is dedicated to a vision whereby learning disabilities
are universally understood and effectively addressed. The membership
of LDA includes persons with SLD, their families and concerned
professionals. Historically, LDA has been predominantly funded
by membership dues, annual conference fees and private donations.
Response to Intervention (RTI) has far reaching implications for
children with SLD and it is imperative that LDA responds to this
initiative, supporting those components of RTI which can benefit
individuals with Specific Learning Disabilities and identifying
other components that are not in their best interest.
LDA welcomes ideas, research and practices for improving instruction
and services for individuals with Specific Learning Disabilities.
As new initiatives are introduced, LDA must be vigilant to assure
that they are of benefit to children and youth with SLD. It is
in this spirit that this position statement is written.
The 2004 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA), [Sec.602(30)] defines Specific Learning
(A); "IN GENERAL - specific learning disability means a disorder in 1
or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in
using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in imperfect
ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.
(B); DISORDERS INCLUDED - Such term includes such conditions as perceptual
disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental
(C); DISORDERS NOT INCLUDED - Such term does not include a learning problem
that is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, or
mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural,
or economic disadvantage."
The Response to Intervention Process
The purpose of RTI is that of a prevention model
to limit or prevent academic failure for students who are having
difficulty learning by providing "scientific research-based
interventions" to bring students up to grade level achievement.
Although there is no single RTI model, the many variations that
are emerging use a two-to-five tiered model. Each tier provides
increasingly individualized instruction, continuous monitoring
of progress to calculate gains, and criteria for changing interventions
and/or tiers through a team decision-making process. In general,
the tiers would include:
Tier I - high quality instruction and behavioral
supports provided in general education classrooms.
Tier II - small group instruction - intensive specialized
interventions provided with consistency by highly trained teachers.
In Tier III - more individualized intervention and/or referral
for special education.
Another purpose of RTI is to serve as part of a comprehensive evaluation for
SLD. Local Education Agencies must use the eligibility criteria developed by
their State. States must permit, and may require, using RTI as a part of eligibility
LDA supports the promise of RTI as an early intervention process
initiated by general education to ensure that, at the first sign
of school problems, students will receive academic supports including:
- Early, high-quality, scientific research-based interventions
- Continuous monitoring of student performance and progress
- Use of response data to change the intensity or type of subsequent
- Parents and families informed and involved in team decision
making throughout the intervention process
It is essential that parents be aware of their right to
send a written referral to the school system requesting their
child receive a comprehensive evaluation for identification/eligibility
for special education services, at any time during the RTI process.
LDA supports RTI as one component of a comprehensive determination
of eligibility, specifically:
- LDA supports the appropriate implementation of the first two
tiers of RTI for the purpose of ensuring that the children eventually
identified as SLD participated in programs providing effective
instruction. Such practices should help reduce so-called false
positives (identification of children who seem disabled but who
in fact, have not received appropriate instruction).
LDA recognizes the difficulties in the effective implementation
of RTI as a system wide initiative and has serious concerns about:
availability of "scientific research-based interventions" for
all ages and all academic domains. There is much scientific evidence
to help educators teach early reading skills (e.g., phonological
awareness and beginning decoding skills), but much less research-based
knowledge about how to teach reading comprehension. There is even
less research-based information available to guide instruction
in math, spelling, and writing and in the content areas of science
and social studies.
- appropriate training of general education personnel who will
be responsible for implementing RTI
- implementation of RTI in middle school and high school
- awareness of the need for consistency in the design of RTI
models across local school agencies
- availability of controlled studies regarding the use of RTI
in SLD determination
LDA does not support the use of an RTI process as the
sole means of determination for SLD for these reasons:
- The use of RTI methodology should not be construed as the only,
or as the most important, means of SLD identification. Practitioners
in some states already use RTI in this manner resulting in low-achievement
as a definition of SLD and labeling of students with SLD as having
a "non-categorical" disability. This discourages the
use of multi-disciplinary evaluation teams and the use of cognitive,
language, and perceptual tests. In effect this subverts many
years of clinical practice and empirical research on learning
- Learning disabilities must not be equated with low achievement
alone. The RTI low achievement criterion may exclude some high-ability
students with SLD from special education despite the fact that
IDEA regulations (Sec 300.301) state: "FAPE (free appropriate
public education) is available to any individual child with a
disability who needs special education and related services even
though the child has not failed or been retained in a course
or grade and is advancing from grade to grade."
When conducting an evaluation of children suspected of
having Specific Learning Disabilities, LDA supports the safeguards
provided by IDEA 2004 and emphasizes the following:
- Specific Learning Disabilities are not synonymous with difficulty
in learning how to read or with low achievement. To differentiate
SLD from low achievement, the LEA shall "use technically
sound instruments that may assess the relative contribution of
cognitive factors..." [Sec. 614(b)(2)(C)] as part of the
comprehensive individual evaluation required by IDEA to isolate
the exclusion factors. Cognitive measures provide information
about the student's intraindividual differences, as well as diagnostic
data necessary in developing appropriate individualized intervention
- Use of evaluation techniques that permit consideration of "a
pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement,
or both, relative to age, State approved grade level standards
or intellectual development." 300.309(a)(2)(ii)
- A single measure or assessment may not be used as the sole
criterion for determining whether a child is a child with a disability
and for determining an appropriate education program for the
child. * According to IDEA, data from an RTI process may be used
as part of the evaluation procedures; the ability/achievement
discrepancy model may be used as part of the evaluation, but
is not required.
- Assessments and other evaluation materials must be valid and
reliable without racial or cultural bias.
Specific Learning Disabilities are neurologically-based, intrinsic
to the individual and are characterized by intraindividual differences,
including cognitive variations that affect learning and require
specialized instruction, accommodations, modifications and other
supports. LDA calls attention to the potentially devastating, lifelong
effects of this disorder and the necessity for accurate timely
diagnosis and prescriptive individualized instruction.
©2006 Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA).
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