The Learning Disability Association of Canada (L’association canadienne des troubles d’apprentissage, ACTA) (http://www.ldac-acta.ca/) and its library of documents and research informs to a great extent how learning disabilities are managed in Canada. LDAC/ACTA’s guidelines for defining and intervening in cases of diagnosed or suspected RD/LD (Reading Disability/Learning Disability) are widely used as terms and cause for the elaboration for management programs in school districts across Canada. The terms and models used are thoughtfully prepared and reflect a measured approach to diagnosis and treatment, but they are the only terms we have – they are the de facto standard by acclamation, and this can limit thinking in a critical area.
The current model does not mention physiological considerations in sufficient detail and completely misses visual factors in addressing a problem that is in many ways dependent upon strong visual acquisition and processing skills. To not rule these out prior to diagnosis and treatment amounts to catastrophic waste in a significant number of cases.
LDAC Definition and Intervention Guidelines:
Copied from the LDAC/ACTA website July 2011:
The Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC), a national organization that is widely considered to be the authority on LD/RD, provides definitions for diagnosis which are frequently adopted by Provincial authorities, like Alberta Education.
- •”Learning Disabilities” refer to a number of disorders which may affect the acquisition, organization, retention, understanding or use of verbal or nonverbal information. These disorders affect learning in individuals who otherwise demonstrate at least average abilities essential for thinking and/or reasoning. As such, learning disabilities are distinct from global intellectual deficiency.
- •Learning disabilities result from impairments in one or more processes related to perceiving, thinking, remembering or learning. These include, but are not limited to: language processing; phonological processing; visual spatial processing; processing speed; memory and attention; and executive functions (e.g., planning and decision-making).
- •Learning disabilities range in severity and may interfere with the acquisition and use of one or more of the following:
- •oral language (e.g., listening, speaking, understanding)
- •reading (e.g. decoding, phonetic knowledge, word recognition, comprehension)
- •written language (e.g., spelling and written expression) mathematics (e.g., computation, problem solving).
- •Learning disabilities may also involve difficulties with organizational skills, social perception, social interaction and perspective taking. Learning disabilities are life-long. The way in which they are expressed may vary over an individual’s lifetime, depending on the interaction between the demands of the environment and the individual’s strengths and needs. Learning disabilities are suggested by unexpected academic under-achievement or achievement which is maintained only by unusually high levels of effort and support.
- •Learning disabilities are due to genetic and/or neurobiological factors or injury that alters brain functioning in a manner which affects one or more processes related to learning. These disorders are not due primarily to hearing and/or vision problems, socio-economic factors, cultural or linguistic differences, lack of motivation or ineffective teaching, although these factors may further complicate the challenges faced by individuals with learning disabilities. Learning disabilities may co-exist with various conditions including attentional, behavioural and emotional disorders, sensory impairments or other medical conditions.
- •For success, individuals with learning disabilities require early identification and timely specialized assessments and interventions involving home, school, community and workplace settings. The interventions need to be appropriate for each individual’s learning disability subtype and, at a minimum, include the provision of:
- •specific skill instruction
- •compensatory strategies
- •self-advocacy skills.