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Journal Issue: Special Education for Students with Disabilities Volume 6 Number 1 Spring 1996

Learning Disabilities
G. Reid Lyon

Efforts to Improve Identification

To improve the diagnosis and remediation of learning disabilities, a classification system is needed to identify different types of learning disabilities as well as the distinctions and interrelationships among types of LD and other childhood disorders.2,20,32 Prospective longitudinal studies are one of the most powerful means to study the different types of LD and their relationships to other disorders and to obtain data for a focused and succinct definition.

Prospective, longitudinal studies of LD can serve as a platform to (1) identify critical learning and behavioral characteristics that may be manifested in different ways at different developmental periods, (2) develop early predictors of underachievement for different academic domains (for example, reading, written language, math), (3) map the developmental course of different types of learning disabilities, (4) identify commonly co-occurring disorders and secondary behavioral consequences that develop in response to failure in school, and (5) assess the efficacy of different treatment and teaching methods for different types of learning disabilities.

To address this compelling need to establish a valid classification system and definition for LD, Congress enacted the Health Research Extension Act of l985 (Public Law 99-158). This act called for the development of an Interagency Committee on Learning Disabilities (ICLD), under the lead of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), to identify critical research needs in LD and to implement comprehensive studies to address issues relevant to identification, prevention, etiology, and treatment.