Little girl looking through a magnifying glass.

LDA Research Committee Works to Find Causes of Learning Disabilities

The LDA Research Committee provides a knowledgeable interface between LDA membership and the medical and scientific communities in conjunction with the Healthy Children Project. The Committee monitors scientific and medical literature, public policy, research grants, diagnostic methods and biological causes related to learning disabilities. The Committee brings salient information and scientific contribution to the LDA Board Directors, committees and membership. The Research Committee works in support of the goals of the LDA Healthy Children Project disseminating information on factors that contribute to learning disabilities and policy efforts to eliminate preventable causes to federal agencies and members of congress. Information on chemicals of concern to brain development is available at

Committee Goal

The goal of the LDA Research Committee is to promote scientific, professional and legislative interest in known and probable causes of learning disabilities that may lead to knowledge-based prevention and remediation and to support the LDA Healthy Children Project.

Objectives of the Research Committee

  • Develop awareness of and promote research on the causes, prevention, and treatment of learning and related developmental disabilities.
  • Monitor the medical and scientific literature related to learning disabilities, their nature, their causes and their prevention.
  • Support the goals and work of the Learning Disabilities Association of America Healthy Children Project.
  • Underscore research findings on the causes of learning disabilities by presenting them to federal agencies and the medical community.
  • Collaborate with other related organizations on issues of common interest and concern.

Factors in Learning Disabilities Currently Followed Closely by Research Committee

  • Impact of pesticides, environmental and other chemicals including lead and other heavy metals on brain development.
  • Thyroid hormone disorder in mother, fetus and child.
  • Medications used in management of learning disabilities.
  • Effects of medications used during pregnancy on brain development.

Development of the Research Committee

In 1975 several leading members of LDA, then the Association for Children with Learning Disabilities (ACLD)l were concerned about the causes of learning disabilities. With the encouragement of the ACLD Board of Directors they formed the Research Committee. The aim was to inform the Board of Directors and the membership about any new scientific information about the causes of learning disabilities. During the last 40 years, the Committee has been active continuously in presenting LDA annual conference several relevant conference sessions and neuroscientific symposia. The members of the Research Committee have been active in writing legislation adopted by congress, and in promoting ongoing interaction with members of congress and federal agency officials, and biomedical researchers working on issues and problems related to learning disabilities and their causes. The Committee has remained a valued stimulus toward keeping the interests of LDA in the minds of legislators, bureaucrats, scientists and allied professionals. and in keeping learning disabilities in the forefront at the level of the federal government, and in the scientific and medical professional communities.

On behalf of the LDA Board of Directors, the Research Committee members have testified before congressional hearings on needs for environmental toxicant control, early infant assessment for brain disorder, and for neurodevelopmental testing of drugs and chemicals by the EPA and FDA.

Sponsored Legislation

The Research Committee on behalf of LDA Board of Directors initiated the legislation that was adopted by Congress to mandate that thirteen federal agencies compile and present all research they have supported that relates to learning disabilities. The resulting Interagency Task Force on Learning Disabilities was mandated in 1985 and placed under the jurisdiction of Dr. Duane Alexander, then the Director of the National Institute on Child Health and Development. The Interagency Report grew to a 500-page summary and a subsequent book that summarized the findings and future needs. This material was reported to the public in a 1987, with a two-day public presentation at the National Institutes of Health. Research Committee members were pleased to have the first collection of all funded work on learning disabilities, their characteristics, their probable causes and their course during childhood and into adulthood. The Committee immediately gave the directors of the thirteen participating agencies the task of using that information to formulate recommendations concerning needs for new scientific and medical research on learning disabilities. The Committee then carried this momentum directly to congress for the mandating of appropriations for the establishment of at least three interdisciplinary grants for research centers studying learning disabilities. Appropriations and grant application review resulted in the funding of the center grants at Yale, Johns-Hopkins and University of Colorado. Appropriations were subsequently allocated for additional programs at Bowman-Gray, Beth Israel/Harvard, University of Houston, and University of Washington.

Conference Symposia

The Research Committee has produced a medical and/or neuroscientific symposia during each annual LDA International Conference and continues to work in conjunction with the Healthy Children project to present annual symposia related to healthy brain development. Topics have included;

  • Beating the Odds – Reducing the Risks
  • Behavioral Toxicology
  • Brain Imaging and Learning Disabilities
  • Carrying on the Vision: An Update on Environmental Issues
  • Charting the Course for Prevention
  • Chemical Impostors and Child Development: Learning, Behavior and Function
  • Critical Discoveries in Learning Disabilities: A Summary of Findings by NIH Research Programs
  • Developmental Disorders of Preschool Children: Differential Diagnosis and Outcomes
  • Food Substances Effects on Brain and Behavior, Neuropsychology: Integrating the Disciplines
  • Genetic and Environmental Factors in Learning Disabilities: Can They Be Prevented
  • Genetics and Nutrition: Relevance to Learning Disabilities
  • Genetic Vulnerability And Environmental Triggers In Brain Development
  • How Today’s Environment Affects Tomorrow’s Children
  • Multiple Factors that Impacts Brain Development
  • Neuroimaging in Learning Disabilities and Developmental Disorders
  • New Angles on Motor and Sensory Coordination in Learning Disabilities
  • Prenatal and Perinatal Factors Relevant to Learning Disabilities
  • The Center Concept: From Research to Service
  • The Decade of the Brain: A Retrospective and the Latest Word
  • The Neurological Basis of Social Competence
  • The Rising Rates of Learning Disabilities: The Role of Neurotoxicants
  • Thyroid Function Relevant to Learning Disabilities
  • Tots and Toxins: Altered Brains