A reconceptualization of learning disabilities via a self-organizing systems paradigm

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A dilemma exists regarding the interpretation of learning disabilities. A self-organizing systems (SOS) paradigm suggests widespread, diffuse outcomes, whereas a specific learning disability concept suggests more localized dysfunction. There may be very good reason to doubt the veridicality of the concept of a specific learning disability, not because the construct of learning disabilities itself is a frivolous concept, as some have held, but because the biological or neurological events that underlie a learning disability do not remain focal and constrained only to specific dysfunction. It is important to know whether an identified learning disability remains contained or whether processing disorders might be found in other areas. The assessment profiles of school-age children identified with nonverbal learning disabilities (NLD), assumed to have primarily right-hemispheric brain dysfunctions, and children with language-based learning disabilities (LLD), assumed to have primarily left-hemispheric brain dysfunctions, were examined to explore learning disabilities using an SOS paradigm. The pilot study reported here is used as an exemplar of how a self-organizing systems paradigm is conceptualized. Although a more comprehensive study is needed to confirm the data, this exemplar suggests that overflow into areas not typically associated with each disability subtype may occur. Concerns regarding ways of determining discrepancy for diagnostic purposes are noted, and remediation strategies designed for specific disabilities are questioned.


Copyright 2001 PRO-ED Journals

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Publication Title

Journal of Learning Disabilities

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Aloyzy Zera, D. (2001). A reconceptualization of learning disabilities via a self-organizing systems paradigm. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 34(1), 79-94. doi:10.1177/002221940103400107.



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