Understanding Learning Disabilities and the Learning Disabled


by Elise Nash Weiss

Fall 2009

ETAP 623; Main Page

Jump to: Elise's Portfolio Page

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CAN YOU REALLY TELL? Absolutely not. However, many people make rash judgments and put labels on individuals. While a label can help serve a child already classified with a special need and therefore give him/her the services they need, most labels have a negative impact on the individual academically, socially, and emotionally.

While there are many challenges facing the learning disabled student the greatest challenge may be of the perception their teachers, peers, families, and society has of them and their disability. The impact the disability has on every part of an individual's life is great. Therefore, if we know all this, then the way we communicate, socialize, play, and work with individuals with learning disabilities needs special care and constant (re) evaluation, keeping in mind the perceptions we have of their "abilities," misconceptions we have of their disability, and the strategies we employ to effectively teach such individuals. An individual with a learning disability needs a teacher to teach them how to learn. They certainly do not need someone to point out their mistakes, shortcomings, or lack of understanding. They simply need a teacher.

Oftentimes, learning disabilities are generalized. One needs to understand the varied nature of learning disabilities as they cross subject areas and change in and among different learning environments.

  • This is a course for individuals currently working with students that have learning disabilities or have the potential of working with such students.
  • This is a course also for families of individuals with learning disabilities that desire further study on the topic.



Upon completion of this course, individuals will be able to:

  • Define specific learning disabilites in the content areas (reading, writing, mathematical, and processing disorders associated with all)
  • Discriminate characteristics of the learning disabled
  • Draw conclusions about the common misconceptions about the learning disabled and instructional methods
  • Draw conclusions about motivational factors and the affective domain of learning disabled students
  • Select and implement best practices associated with the learning disabled


By the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Define specific learning disabilites in the content areas of reading, math, writing, and the processing disorders that affect them
  • Identify misconceptions among educators regarding LD students and their learning capabilities
  • Give examples of what the best practices are to improve the learning environment for learning disabled students
  • Utilize the strategies presented to decrease the frustration level of LD students


  • Individuals accessing and participating in this web based lesson on learning disabilities, will obtain a greater knowledge base of learning disabilities in the content areas of reading, writing, and mathematics, each affected by processing disorders, and gain strategies to improve their role as the teacher by demonstrating an increased level of awareness and sensitivity to learning disabled individuals, and applying this to their practices using the effective strategies presented.
  • Through this web based mini course, given study guides with in-depth text and audio visual references, the learners will adjust their perspective (and/or misconceptions they may have had or continue to have) about the learning disabled by utilizing strategies suggested in the course, by posting reflections in discussion areas, and answering questions posed using the best practices demonstrated within the context of the course.


Essential prerequisites:

  • Auditory and visual processing skills
  • Ability to read and respond to literature
  • Understanding of characteristics of learning disabilities
  • Experience in classroom scenarios as a student, teacher, or both.

Supporting prerequisites:

  • Self motivation and discipline to proceed through course
  • Computer proficiency
  • Positive attitude and moral based learning standards

As this course can be accessed by any individuals desiring more information and clarification on learning disabilities and the experiences of the learning disabled there are limited pre requisites. To reiterate, participants in the course are expected to have a basic understanding of navigating through websites as well as the ability to read and respond to literature and audio visual presented in the course.


You will need to hit the BACK button after viewing the ICM!


LET'S BEGIN! There are Three Units of Instruction:

Please click on each unit as you are ready to work through this course:

UNIT 1: What are Specific Learning Disabilities?



  • Participants will be able to define vocabulary related to specific learning disabilities
  • Participants will be able to define and recognize characteristics of individuals with learning disabilities
  • Participants will be able to respond to questions on new terms and vocabulary

UNIT 2: What are the Misconceptions & Issues Surrounding Learning Disabilities?



  • Participants will be able to identify misconceptions and issues among educators and their common practices in learning environments relating to learning disabilities
  • Participants will identify instructional modifications appropriate to learning disabilities

UNIT 3: What are Effective Instructional Strategies and How Best Do We Implement Them?



  • Participants will examine instructional media to recognize best practices relating to individuals with learning disabilities
  • Participants will be able to give examples of effective instructional strategies relating to individuals with disabilities

To improve my practice, I have been committed to viewing, sharing, and simulating workshops and lessons based on the work of Rick Lavoie. He is a motivational speaker who has served as an administrator of residential programs for children with special needs for over thirty years. In addition to obtaining three degrees in Special Education, he has had numerous national television appearances including CBS Morning Show, Good Morning America, ABC Evening News and Disney Channel Presents. Also, Rick Lavoie is a consultant to many agencies and organizations specializing in teaching and learning such as the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Most notably to me, he has a series of books and professional development workshops in which he motivates, inspires, and changes individual perspectives on teaching and learning.

Therefore, I have incorporated much of his work and philosophies on teaching and learning (with LD) into this mini course through video clips and references to his materials (see below).




Heward, William. (2006). Excetpional Children: An Introduction to Special Education. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.

Johnson, Jennifer. (2008). Early Childhood Special Education. Canada: Thomson Delmar Learning.

Kirk, Samuel, A., Gallagher, James, J., Anastasiow, Nicholas, J., and Coleman, Mary Ruth(2006). Educating Exceptional Children. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Lavoie, Rick (1990). How Difficult Can This Be? The F.A.T. City Learning Disability Workshop Guide & Video Clips. Washington D.C: Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association, Inc. http://teacher.scholastic.com/professional/specialneeds/howard.htm#one











Books and DVD's by Rick Lavoie can be purchased at: http://www.ricklavoie.com/videos.html

Leicester, M. (2007). Special Stories for Disability Awareness. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Turnbull, Ann, Turnbull, Rud, Wehmeyer, Michael, L. (2010). Exceptional Lives: Special Education in Today's Schools. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

U.S. Department of Education: http://idea.ed.gov/

Webb, L.Dean, Metha, Arlene, Jordan, K.Forbis. (2010). Foundations of American Education. New Jersey: Pearson Eduation, Inc.

Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on http://www.DiscoverySchool.com

Additional clip art from: http://www.sla.purdue.edu/fll/JapanProj/FLClipart/

LD Online: http://www.ldonline.org/article/32729

The photo of the group of children was taken (with permission) from: http://www.templeisraelalbany.org/HTML/00_Home/


Jump To: ETAP 623; Main Page

Jump To: Elise's Portfolio Page

Jump To: UNIT 1,Unit 2, or UNIT 3

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