Research: LDA Highlights from 2020

  • Developed Science to Practice Conference for 2021
  • What Parents Need During Remote Learning
  • New Core Principle: Disproportionality in Special Education
  • LDA Today Survey: Why Strong Advocacy and Legal Safeguards Have Been Needed for LD

Science to Practice

For decades now, researchers have been accruing evidence that supports the neurobiological underpinnings of the heterogeneous group of disorders collectively known as learning disabilities. While dyslexia, perhaps the most common learning disability, has received the attention of educators and policy makers thanks to strong parent advocacy, other learning disabilities have not received similar attention. LDA’s first, hopefully annual, Science to Practice Conference will serve as a vehicle to disseminate the research on all learning disabilities as well as the most effective interventions, to psychologists, speech and language pathologists, diagnosticians and other professionals. Ensuring the best possible outcomes for individuals with learning disabilities requires early and accurate identification and evidence-based intervention. In partnership with Pearson, LDA is bringing together 35 leading researchers and professionals in the field. This virtual event will take place January 21-24 and will provide critical knowledge for those tasked with evaluating and supporting students with learning disabilities.

What Parents Need During Remote Learning

The switch to remote learning was a challenge for many, especially for students with learning disabilities. Parents were worried about what remote learning for their children and LDA got to work. In April, LDA surveyed parents to learn what schools were doing, what was working well, and what else parents needed to support their children with disabilities at home while schools are closed. 

Data from this survey revealed that some of the main needs of parents were resources to support at-home learning and online resources to reduce their child’s anxiety. To fill this need, LDA developed our COVID-19 Resource Center (​

Data from this survey was also used to inform policy makers and to help them understand why the pandemic does not need to result in students with disabilities losing their rights. 

New Core Principle: Disproportionality in Special Education

In our July 2020 issue of LDA Today, we shared that an LDA work group was in the final stages of publishing a new core principle document related to the disproportionate identification of students of color as having learning and other disabilities. This core principle was published on September 8, 2020. 

It is the position of the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) that disproportionality in identification involves both under- and over-identification of students of color. Disproportionate identification is complex, context dependent, and the result of a number of factors. Using “a standard methodology” to guard against over-identification is important. If, however, State Educational Agencies (SEAs) do so without meeting their responsibility to ensure every student’s legal right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) under the law, children with disabilities may not receive the services and supports that they both need and deserve. LDA advocates for policies and practices that will ensure each child is considered as an individual with a unique set of circumstances. We assert that racial, ethnic, language, and economic factors should not create barriers to receiving the services and supports afforded by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Read the entire document on our website here

LDA Today Survey: Why Strong Advocacy and Legal Safeguards Have Been Needed for LD

In September’s LDA Today Research segment, we shared a 1993 article from Louisa Cook Moats and G. Reid Lyon from the Journal of Learning Disabilities. In their article, Learning Disabilities in the United States: Advocacy, Science, and the Future of the Field”, Moats and Lyon stated that “no disease or significant health problem in this country is given much attention until political forces are motivated by parents, patients, or victims expressing their very real and heartfelt concerns about their quality of life”. They offered a perspective on the distinguishing characteristics in the field of learning disabilities in the United States including five reasons why such strong advocacy and legal safeguards was needed for individuals with learning disabilities in the United States:

  1. Although American educational policies reflect the intent to accommodate individual differences, classroom groupings are diverse, and most curriculum and teaching in graded classrooms are aimed at the common factors among those groupings.
  2. In the United States, the responsibility of schools is to provide equality of opportunity, not equality of condition in educational experiences. 
  3. We typically finance our schools through local property taxes, and there are tremendous inequities in per-pupil expenditures from district to district. 
  4. Education reform movements in this country have not focused on public responsibility for educating all students.
  5. Social, medical, and educational services to children in this country have never been a national priority, as they are in many other industrialized nations.

We published a survey to see how our readers and members think the reasons Moats and Lyon presented in their article resonate for current students and adults with learning disabilities.

To date, we have received responses from parents, educators, professionals, individuals with learning disabilities, and others from 15 different states. Over 50% of respondents strongly agreed that all five are reasons strong advocacy and legal safeguards are needed for individuals with learning disabilities in the United States still today. You can help ensure that individuals with learning disabilities and their families continue to have strong advocates through LDA by making sure your membership is up to date today!