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The changing landscape of learning disabilities in Canada: definitions and practice from 1989-2000

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Publication details

JournalSchool Psychology International
DatePublished - May 2002
Issue number2
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)199-219
Original languageEnglish


This article examines the definitions of LD used in empirical research in four major Canadian journals during the time period 19892000, and notes changes or trends in LD definitions and theories. Next, current definitions (2000/2001) of LD used by the 10 provincial ministries of education and recent proposed changes are analysed and compared with changes in definition currently espoused in the research. Little consensus of LD definition was found in the 36 research articles, rendering comparability of findings difficult. Eight articles provided a theoretical critique of learning disabilities, with seven of the studies criticizing the role of IQ in LD definitions. Among the provinces, a number of different operational definitions are currently in use, with 8 of 10 provinces using some form of a 'traditional' IQ/achievement discrepancy method. A shift in LD identification practice, reflecting the theoretical work of Canadian-based Kirby, Siegel, and Stanovich, is seen in the recent Review of Special Education in British Columbia in which significantly low word identification, reading comprehension, and pseudo-word decoding are deemed sufficient to identify students as reading disabled. Implications for professionals in the field are discussed.

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