Overview of Status of
LD in Other Countries
According to Wong (1998), America has made achievements in
the field of learning disabilities (LD) in four major areas. First, more
children are currently being served in LD programs than in any other area of
special education. Second, the extensive services to children and youth with LD
in the United States are the result of the field’s firm status within the law.
Beginning with P.L 94-142 (The Education of the Handicapped Act of 1975), all
school districts are required to provide free and appropriate education to
children identified as LD The essential provisions of P.L. 94-142 were
reaffirmed in P.L 98-199 (The Education of the Handicapped Act of 1983), which
also contained some provision for expansion of services at preschool,
secondary, and postsecondary levels. Finally, this legislation, now known as
the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was reauthorized in
1997, with provisions to assist with discipline, assessment and accountability,
and development of individualized educational programmes for children with
The third indication is in the number of associations that
have been formed to advocate on behalf of children with LD, support
professional development, and provided a forum for discussion of research.
These organizations include; Learning Disabilities Association of America
(LDA), the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, the Division for
Learning Disabilities (DLD), the Council for Learning Disabilities (CLD), the
Orton Dyslexia Society, and the National joint Committee on Learning
Disabilities (NJCLD) which play a very important role in contributing to the
development and continuing visibility off the field.
The final indicator is the level of interest in the topic
among researchers. It is a very active area of research. Research on LD within
the United States received a major impetus with the passage of the Health
research Extension Act of 1985, which mandated the formation of an Interagency
Committee on learning Disabilities to examine the current state of knowledge in
field of LD and then make a report to the Congress, with recommendations for a
research initiative in the area (Wong 1998).
Gates (2003) observes that institutions for people with
learning disabilities existed in Netherlands at the end of the 19th
century with large institutions being built after the 2nd World War.
All people with learning disabilities get some care from care providers in
institutions, in the community or in special schools where they have their
daily care and activity in day care centers for children/adults. The government
and professional groups embrace four concepts in the process of care provision:
the concept of Tailor-Made Care, the Quality of Care Act, the personal contract
and the individual care plan along with the coordinating role of the case
Whereas Sweden has been providing for pupils with LD since
1866 when the first special school was established for pupils with LD, the law
for people with LD came into force in 1944, which provided for children and
young people with mild LD. Another law followed it in 1954. With the inception
of the Act concerning support and service for persons with certain fundamental
impairment (Disability act) in 1994, local authorities have taken over
responsibility for support and provision of services for persons with LD
However, it is significant to point out that what happens
in developed countries is in sharp contrast to the situation obtaining in
developing countries where learning disabilities is an emerging new area.
2.9. The Status of LD
The following Federal definition by the U.S.
Government in Public Law 94-142 of Learning Disabilities has been adopted in India.
“Specific Learning Disabilities means a disorder in one or
more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or inn
using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect
ability to listen, speak, read, spell or to do mathematical calculations. The
term includes such conditions as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal
brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia. The term does not
include children who have learning problems which are primarily the result of
visual, hearing or motor handicaps, mental retardation, emotional disturbance
or environmental, cultural or economic disadvantages.” (federal Register, 1977, p.65083) Karanth 2002).
The LD movement in India is of more recent origin and
comparable today with that of the western LD movement of nearly half a century
In the eastern world. LD was earlier considered a problem
of English speaking countries. The apparent lower incidence of these types of
difficulties resulted in a relative lack of concern about LD in Asian countries
such as India and China. Reports of lower incidences of LD in the eastern world
were attributed by Western scholars to the general lack of awareness and
sensitivity among educationists. The specific difficulties faced by children
learning to read were attributed to the overcrowded classrooms. At the same
time, reports of the high incidence of problems associated was attributed by
easterners to the vagaries and complex nature of alphabetic writing systems
such as English (Karanth 2002).
During the last decade or two, however, there has been an
increasing awareness and identification of children with LD in India. Despite
this growing interest, we still have no clear idea about the incidence and
prevalence of LD in India.
Epidemiological studies of LD are fraught with difficulties
ranging from the very definition of LD, identification and assessment, to
sociao-cultural factors unique to India. The Federal definition implies key
factors: adequate intelligence, appropriate instruction and socio-cultural
factors. The implications of these terms for identification of children with LD
in a pluralistic society such as ours are immense and cannot be easily handled
The inherent complexities of the notion of LD are further
complicated by an acute lack of teacher awareness, of clear-cut assessment
procedures or indigenous tools for assessment of processing deficits,
intelligence testing and testing for proficiency in reading and writing (Karanth,
We need to learn from these experiences, at present, in
India, LD is considered the prerogative of a few in the big cities. Even Directors
of State Education are known to express doubts at the existence of any such
disability. Unfortunately, the confounding factors of English as a foreign
language and lack of proper education and exposure whilst aggravating the
academic difficulties for the children, also play a major part in masking the
processing problems and hence make LD an elusive entity. Teachers attribute the
learning difficulties to a “language problem”, not realizing that LD too is a
language based disorder.
Most of the (research and intervention) work in the area of
LD is being done by private organizations and the NGOs. There is little
communication between these organizations and the state educational
authorities. Adding further to the problems, there is a divided between the personnel
in the health and the educational fields, be they private or government.
all other developmental problems is both a health and an educational issue, but
regrettably, the meeting point between the two is few and far between.
multilingual social context in India, where children often have to learn to
study through a medium other than their mother tongue is a complexity that
makes not only diagnosis extremely difficult but also, estimation of prevalence
next to impossible.
language issue is further compounded by factors such as age of enrolment in
school, pre-school exposure and literacy support available in their respective
homes during the school years. Consequently, relating “adequate instruction”
and “social opportunity” as is required by definition of SLD to children from
varied backgrounds (from an urban child enrolled in pre-school at age 21/2
years with early and sustained support to a rural child attending school for
the first time at age 61/2 years with no additional literacy support of any
kind is a tremendous challenge (karanth, 2002).
this is true of identification and assessment, the challenges faced with
respect to remediation and management are no less daunting. Our educational
system with its overwhelming emphasis on knowing rather than learning, theory
rather than application, is ill-suited for the child with LD. The overwhelming
influence of Western thought with lack of indigenous research has led to a
situation where even ones strengths are turned into liabilities, an example
being the ‘ phonemecisation ‘ of the Indian scripts under the influence of the
phonic method of the West.
near total lack of alternate systems of education and the social premium for a
handful of vocational courses with an utter disregard for all other vocational
training are other major hurdles in the ‘education’ of the child with LD. These
are but some of the issues faced by the individual and the family of the
learning disabled, to date in India (karanth, 2002).
epidemiological study (1995-2000) of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders
in urban and rural areas of Bangalore, was done by the Dept of psychiatry,
Epidemiology and Biostatistics, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro
Sciences, Bangalore to determine prevalence rates of child and adolescence
psychiatric disorders for the Indian Council of Medical Research. The total
prevalence rate in 4-16 year old children in urban middle class, slum and rural
areas was 12%. However the children with SLD were eventually excluded from this
study as most of them lacked adequate schooling as per the ICD-10-DCR criteria
for SLD. In addition, many of the assessments were incomplete due to lack of
cooperation for the lengthy testing for Specific Learning Disabilities (Srinath
S, et al., 2005).
prevalence study on Learning Disability conducted at the L.T.M.G Hospital,
Sion, Mumbai reveals that of the total number of 2,225 children visiting the
hospital for certification of any kind of disability, 640 were diagnosed as
having a Specific Learning Disability. These children came from the lower,
middle and upper middle socio-economic strata of society. Referral was due to
their poor school performance (LTMG, 2006).
conducted by the SreeChithiraThirumal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology
in Kerala in 1997 revealed that nearly 10% of the childhood population has
developmental language disorders or one type or the other and 8-10% of the
school population has learning disability of one form or the other.
institute for Communicative and Cognitive Neurosciences (ICCONS), Kerala, has
been conducting research programs in childlanguage
disorders and developing research and rehabilitation programs for learning
disabilities. Screening for LDs for Classes I to VII in schools with follow up
assessments by experts in 10 panchayats in Kerala revealed that 16% of these
school children have a learning disability (Suresh, 1998).
Other studies have been done at child-guidance clinics in
India (Khurana, 1980; John , 1986) where 20% children attending the
clinic were diagnosed to be scholastically backward. However, variables such as
the socio-economic class, exposure to language act as confounding variables in
such clinic-based studies (GEON, 2005).