Learning Disabilities essay


Institution Affiliation

Learningdifficulties is a term used to highlight the areas of functioning inwhich an individual experiences extensive problems about learning.The problems experienced in learning are usually as a result of aseries of factors that are unknown (Vogel, 1998). The disorderaffects the ability of the brain to receive information from variousprocesses in which such an individual engages. The challenges inlearning warrant official diagnosis whereby a professionalpsychologist and psychiatrist make the conclusion concerning themental well-being of the person experiencing difficulties inlearning.

Various theorieshave been developed regarding the above topic. Each of the scholarsdeveloped unique yet interrelated concepts in discussing the issue athand. Some of the approaches that have been developed by scholarsinclude the Psychodynamic Theory by Sigmund Freund, Erik Erikson’sPsychological theory, Behaviorist Theory by Skinner, Cognitive Theoryby Jean-Jacques Piaget, Lev Vygotsky`s Sociocultural Theory, andEcological theory by Urie Bronfenbrenner (Atherton &amp Crickmore,2012). Others include Multiple Intelligence theories by HowardGardner, the Maturation Theory by Arnold Gessel, and Abraham Maslow`sHumanistic Theories. All the above approaches are classified underthe Developmental and Learning Theories (Vogel, 1998).

This paper willidentify eight sources from the American Public University System(APUS) online library and use them to discuss learning disabilities.The study will involve a critical analysis of the lifespandevelopment topic selected. In addition to this, four major theorieswill be integrated into the paper. They include Cognitive DevelopmentTheory by Jean Piaget, Social Development Theory developed by LevVygotsky, B.F Skinner’s Operant Conditioning.

Cognitive Development Theory

This developmenttheory was proposed by Jean Piaget, who was regarded as one of thefirst psychologists to contribute to studies of cognitivedevelopment. He argued that children were born with a basic mentalstructure that was either inherited or evolved. It is on the basicmental structure that the learning process was based. This theoryfocused more on the development of individuals and as such was notconcerned with the development of specific behaviors amongindividuals. According to this psychologist, cognitive developmentamong children was a discontinuous process. At the same time, it wasa mental process that included both biological maturation andenvironmental experience.

In this regard,he argued that children are in a position to construct anunderstanding of the environment in which they are brought up (Vogel,1998). After that, they will be able to discern any changes from whatthey know and what the new context provides them. The level ofdiscrepancies between what the children are aware of and what the newenvironments provide them with forms the root of Piaget’s theory.Therefore such changes provide the children with the opportunitysince they have to adapt to the existing discrepancies within theirlearning environments (Atherton &amp Crickmore, 2012).

The cognitivedevelopment theory has three major components, and they includeschemas, which are also known as the building block of knowledge.Secondly, it contains processes that enable the learners totransition from one stage to the other. Some of the processesincluded this case include assimilation, equilibrium, andaccommodation. The final essential components are the stages ofdevelopment, and they include sensorimotor, preoperational, concreteoperational, and formal operational (Atherton &amp Crickmore, 2012).

Assimilationrefers to the use of existing building blocks of knowledge to dealwith a new problem or situation. Accommodation, on the other hand, isthe process whereby the existing knowledge is obsolete and as such itshould be changed to deal with the new situation. Equilibration is ascenario in which the new information cannot fit into any of theexisting systems (Vogel, 1998). The existence of such disequilibriumdrives the learning process into seeking to restore balance bymastering the new challenges that arise.

The stages ofdevelopment analyzed by Piaget in his theory discussed the kinds ofissues experienced at the present ages of the students. The firstphase, known as the sensorimotor stage occurs between birth and twoyears. Children at this juncture are aware of the existence ofobjects even when they are still hidden. The preoperational stage isbetween two and seven years and during this period the concept ofegocentrism is introduced among children. The child is only able tounderstand the world from his/her point of view. The concreteoperational stage is experienced between seven and eleven years. Itis at this stage that children can understand that redistribution ofmaterials does not have any impacts on the mass, volume and number.Finally, the formal operational stage begins at the age of elevenyears. This is the phase that the concept of inferential reasoning ishighlighted. It refers to the ability of an individual to make aconclusion from things that they are yet to experience. One majorlearning disorder that can be included in this category is thenon-verbal learning disabilities.


This is a form oflearning disorder that has a series of characteristics that includeweak visual and social skills. It also involves a discrepancy betweenhigher verbal skills and poorer motor skills. Such individuals willexperience difficulties in understanding nonverbal cues that mayinclude body language and facial expressions. Moreover, coordinationbecomes a major problem for those suffering from NLD (Atherton &ampCrickmore, 2012).

Social Development Theory

According to thistheory, social interactions play a massive role in the development ofan individual. Additionally, the community has a major spot in theprocess of making meaning. Lev Vygotsky argued that socialdevelopment comes before the development stages. This is in contrastto the cognitive development theory proposed by Piaget. However,there is an agreement between the two philosophers with regards toprimary materials for intellectual development. The socialdevelopment approach, therefore, focuses on the elementary mentalfunctions that include sensation, attention, memory, and perception.The functions are developed through the Higher Mental Functions intosophisticated mental strategies. Therefore, the learning processmassively depends on the social interactions according to this author(Vogel, 1998). This included the use of creative tutors with theability to model behaviors and provides verbal instructions for thechildren.

Various conceptswere developed by Lev Vygotsky. One of them is the More KnowledgeableOther (MKO) which refers to an individual that possesses a higherintellectual ability than the learner. Such discrepancies inunderstanding can be regarding a particular task or process. The Zoneof Proximal Development (ZPO) relates to a comparison of what a childcan achieve when working independently vis-a-vis when underthe guidance of an MKO.

Vygotsky`s workscontributed massively to the concept of language. He identified therole of languages in cognitive development which included the meansof transmission of information to the children. Additionally,language was regarded as an important tool of intellectual adaption(Siegel, 2013). Internal speech, otherwise known as private speechrefers to instances whereby individuals speak aloud to themselves. Itis a common feature among children and is seen as one of the waysthrough which the development of children is aided. Some of thelearning disorders that can be analyzed using Vygostky’s analysisare discussed below.


This form oflearning disability affects individuals’ abilities to read andother language-based processing skills. The level of severity of thisproblem will depend on a person though it can affect the fluency ofthe victim as well as the ability to read comprehensions effectively(Siegel, 2013). In this regard, this learning problem is also knownas Language-Based Learning Disability. Some of the symptoms thatpoint towards this disorder include slow and painful reading,decoding errors with regards to the letters, trouble spellingletters, and handwriting difficulties.

Other symptomsinclude difficulties in math computation, a significant disparitybetween listening and reading comprehension of particular text(Siegel, 2013). Numerous strategies can be used to manage thislearning disorder. Individuals with this problem should be providedwith quiet learning activities that include reading and answeringcomprehension questions (Atherton &amp Crickmore, 2012). Additionally, they can be provided with books that have large printsand large spaces between the lines as well as the use of books ontapes. Other strategies that can be utilized to rectify andeffectively manage such a learning disorder include the use oflaptops and other computer items for essays conducted on classes andpresentation of materials in small units.

Language Processing Disorder

This disorderfalls under the Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) and involvesdifficulties in attaching specific meanings to particular groups ofwords (Tanguay, 2001). These can include sound groups that formwords, stories, and sentences. This form of the disorder is deemed torelate only to a the processing of language, unlike the AuditoryProcessing Disorder that covers the interpretation of all soundsthrough the ear and their subsequent analysis in the brains of theindividuals. The Language Processing Disorder (LPD) affects bothexpressive and receptive languages and should there (Tanguay, 2001).The strategies that are utilized in this case include speaking slowlywhile avoiding complex statements when conveying instructions.Additionally, speech pathologists can be utilized in the managementof such a scenario. Other concepts that have shown great success inthis regard include the use of recorders for note taking and storymapping. Finally, story starters can be used to facilitate thecompletion of creative writing assignments (Atherton &amp Crickmore,2012).

Operating Conditioning

This theory wasdeveloped by B.F Skinner and relates to the behaviorist concepts thatwere suggested by Thorndike and Watson (Gates &amp Atherton, 2007).The term operant conditioning refers to changes in behaviors that arefacilitated by using reinforcements that exist for every givenresponse. In this regard, the B.F Skinner identified three majorresponses that are likely to follow a behavior (Wong et al., 2008).

The first operantaccording to the operant conditioning concept is known as neutraloperant. This refers to the existence of a response in an environmentthat will neither elevate of minimizing the possibilities of certaintraits being committed. On the other hand, reinforcers involve thereactions whereby the probabilities of behaviors being repeated arehigh. As such, this operant can either be positive or negative(Neuwirth &amp National Institute of Mental Health, 1993). Finally,the last response is the punishers in which the reaction in theenvironment is likely to decrease the likelihood of particular traitsbeing highlighted. One such analysis is that punishment weakens thebehaviors of individuals. Therefore, the operant conditioning theoryargues that the analysis of behaviorism concepts should be based onthe observable behaviors and not other internal events that includeemotions and thinking (Neuwirth &amp National Institute of MentalHealth, 1993). An individual’s behavior is, therefore, likely to beinfluenced by the environment in which they live in.

Though theenvironments would have been similar for most of the learners,Skinner argued that learning effectiveness would be achieved based onthe organisms that were responding to the situation. To achieve hisprimary objective, he focused on research. Rats and pigeons were theprimarily the animals used in his studies (Wong et al., 2008). Itresulted in the invention of the Skinny box whereby a rat had tolearn to use the lever system to obtain food. Adaptation, therefore,formed a fundamental concept in the Operant Conditioning theory asdeveloped by B.F. Skinner (Wong et al., 2008).

Socialist Learning Theory

Albert Banduradeveloped the social learning theory in which he argues that thebehaviors of individuals are based on the environments in which anindividual operates. The procedure involved is known as theobservation learning process (Wong et al., 2008). This concept ismore applicable to children whereby they are likely to imitate theactions of people around them (Neuwirth &amp National Institute ofMental Health, 1993). The children will, therefore, observe thebehaviors of the people around them before attending to thosecharacter traits that they deem as similar to their own. It is forthis reason that the young ones will under most circumstances takeafter behaviors modeled by the people of same sex as the child. Onthe other hand, the individuals around the children will respond tothe behaviors exhibited by the toddlers through reinforcement orpunishment (Neuwirth &amp National Institute of Mental Health,1993). A child is likely to continue with actions in which theconsequences involve rewards. Vicarious reinforcement is a conceptthat occurs when the children take into account what happens toothers before making the decision on whether to imitate any actions.

Identificationinvolves interaction with the model and the subsequent inception ofthe latter’s actions. In this case, a person will identify otherpeople and then take on their observed behaviors, beliefs andattitudes, and the values of the people they are making an attempt toidentify (Neuwirth &amp National Institute of Mental Health, 1993).The concept of identification is different from imitation in onemajor way. The former involves taking up a series of behaviors from amodel whereas imitation revolves around copying a single behavior.Later on, Bandura integrated the concept of cognition in the shapingof individual responses. This was necessitated by his discovery thatthe children exhibited different learning capabilities with regardsto listening, making observations, and remembering complex ways. Thedifferences in abilities were visible in the variations in the levelsof imitation and learning (Wong et al., 2008). Some of the learningdisorders that are relate to this theory included dyscalculia anddysgraphia.


This is a problemthat is prominent when learning numbers and other math facts.Individuals are considered to be suffering from the dyscalculiadisorders in case they are not in a position to master mathematicalformulas and basic math problems (Gates &amp Atherton, 2007). Peoplewith this form of learning disorders will, therefore, be poor intheir grasp of numbers, mathematical formulas, and calculations.Another issue that is likely to feature prominently, in this case,relates to the struggles in memorizing numbers in addition to theinability to correctly state time and count a given number of objectscorrectly. Some of the signs and symptoms of this problem includedifficulties in understanding concepts such as the place value andnumber lines. Additionally, there might be problems making a changeand handling money since counting and accountability becomes animportant issue (Atherton &amp Crickmore, 2012). Finally, othersymptoms arise in cases whereby individuals are not in a position tounderstand concepts relating to time, days, and months (Gates &ampAtherton, 2007).


This form ofdisability features mostly among the young school going children andrelates to their handwritings. It also extends to their motor skillsin which case the individuals might have ineligible handwritings,might experience challenges in spacing and poor spelling (Wong etal., 2008). Dysgraphia is also considered to affect individuals suchthat they are likely to experience difficulties in writingcomposition since thinking and writing at the same time are deemed tobe difficult tasks (Gates &amp Atherton, 2007). Some of thestrategies that can be used to correct this problem include the useof oral exams, utilization of computer applications such as wordprocessor that can automatically correct spelling mistakes. Thetutors tasked with supervising such individuals should allow for theuse of tape recording to ensure that concepts that are notinternalized in a classroom can be dealt with at a later time.Finally, students experiencing the dysgraphia disorder should not bechastised for being sloppy in the completion of their tasks (Vogel,1998).

Comparison Analysis

Vast differencesexist between the theories developed by Piaget and Vygotsky. However,there is a possibility of both approaches being integrated togetheras a means of creating a level of instruction that would be effectivefor the tutors. Additionally, a number of instructions can be bothmeaningful and stimulating for the student.

When taking intoconsideration a classroom situation based on the Piagetian style, thefocus should be on the thinking of child above all other factors(Neuwirth &amp National Institute of Mental Health, 1993). Thiswould require the analysis to go beyond the final product of thematerial taught in the classroom. The tutors are therefore concernedwith how the students go about obtaining their answers. They,therefore, go to greater lengths to understand how the students cameup with the answers in the first place. This is because a classroombased on the Piagetian concept does not focus on the standardizationof rules but rather recognizes the differences in the learning ratesamong children. Rather than force the learners to understand variousconcepts at the same pace, this style of learning requires the tutorsto develop extra lessons for the students that are experiencinglearning difficulties rather than for the entire class (Wong et al.,2008). The remedial classes would be used to facilitate learningamong those the slow learners. However, this process is likely toachieve greater results in case the arrangement is self-initiated bythe learners as this is likely to encourage student involvement(Walmsley &amp Johnson, 2003).

On the otherhand, a Vygotsky classroom concept differs from the one developed byPiaget. In the former, the teacher has to identify the insufficiencyof challenging tasks as the basis of the mental development ofstudents (Walmsley &amp Johnson, 2003). In this regards, additionalrequirements are needed to facilitate the mental progress of thestudents. The tutor is therefore required to be able to break down achallenge into simple tasks to enable the student to gradually attainthe required levels of knowledge. Both the theories fronted by Piagetand Vygotsky can be used in a learning situation by a 4th-gradeclassroom teacher to facilitate learning. In this case, the mostappropriate position would be through individual learningassignments. Additionally, it could be used in collaborative learningcenters, group projects in the laboratory assignments.

The theoriesproposed by Bandura and Skinner focus on the classroom management(Neuwirth &amp National Institute of Mental Health, 1993). Thesetheories, therefore, lay greater emphasis on the need to have anefficient management plan for the classes. One of such ways wouldinvolve the use of modeling. In this case, the student can learn whatis expected of them from the teacher and embark on imitating the mostappropriate behaviors (Walmsley &amp Johnson, 2003). Even Vygotsky’stheory focuses on the need to use modeling lessons as an essentialpart of the learning process.

From theimplementation of observational learning, the students will be in aposition to understand the difference between behaviors considered asacceptable and those that are not allowed within a class environment(Walmsley &amp Johnson, 2003). To ensure that order and consistencyare assured in the classroom, both reinforcers and punishments can beused within a classroom by the teachers. Some of the positivereinforcers that can be utilized in this instance include trips andother rewards whereas punishments can be meted out in various ways.The punishments may include restrictions of the recess, a call homeor a call to the principal’s office.

Other Specific

Auditory Processing Disabilities

This disorder isalso known as the Central Auditory Processing Disorder, and it refersto the conditions that are known to affect the transfer of soundsamong individuals. Concerning the learning process, the problemimpedes how sound traveling through ears are received and dealt withby the brain. As such, it highlights the fact that individualssuffering from this problem are not able to identify the differencesbetween sounds and words (Tanguay, 2001). This challenge arises evenin instances whereby the sounds are clear and loud enough to be heardby others. Another problem that is likely to be experienced by suchindividuals is the inability to determine the directions from whichthe sounds are coming from as well as makes sense of the sounds.Finally, it becomes impossible for such people to make sense of theorder of sounds or to block out the background sounds during aconversation (Atherton &amp Crickmore, 2012).


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Atherton, H., &amp Crickmore, D. J. (2012).&nbspLearningdisabilities: Toward inclusion.

Gates, B., &amp Atherton, H. (2007).&nbspLearning disabilities:Toward inclusion. Edinburgh: Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone.

Neuwirth, S., &amp National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.).(1993).&nbspLearning disabilities. Place of publication notidentified: National Institute of Mental Health.

Siegel, L. S. (2013).&nbspUnderstanding dyslexia and otherlearning disabilities.

Tanguay, P. B. (2001).&nbspNonverbal learning disabilities athome: A parent`s guide. London: Jessica Kingsley Pub.

Vogel, S. A. (1998).&nbspLearning disabilities, literacy, andadult education. Baltimore [u.a.: Brookes.

Walmsley, J., &amp Johnson, K. (2003).&nbspInclusive researchwith people with learning disabilities: Past, present, and futures.Philadelphia, PA: J. Kingsley Publishers.

Wong, B., Graham, L., Hoskyn, M., &amp Berman, J. (2008).&nbspTheABCs of . San Diego: Elsevier Science.

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