Graduate Program

School Psychology

Degree Name

Specialist in School Psychology

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

J. Michael Havey


As professionals in the fields of education and psychology, we often focus on the children who are having difficulty learning in and adjusting to school, children who may have learning disabilities. We examine test results and what they say about how a child learns; we consider what the teacher says about the difficulties the child has in the classroom. Teachers discuss how frustrating it is to work with children who are ''slow learners" or who "learn differently." However, the definition of learning disability is so variable that we may fail to identify, or we may over-identify, those with a learning disability. This dilemma is demonstrated by the plethora of related issues in the literature: How are these learning difficulties defined? Why and how are these definitions different when compared by state legislation or by function of the disability? How has the history of learning disabilities influenced how we look at and research them today? Do the disabilities appear when students enter school, or disappear with age or with school conclusion? Why is the definition for this too commonly labeled disability so elusive?

Definitions of learning disabilities have been varied, reflecting our lack of knowledge of the learning process for those with LD and the factors that interfere with it, as well as the biases of the researchers. Terminology used in this field has varied as greatly as have the definitions. The definition of learning disability will be examined across time and across dimensions (processing perspective, neurological perspective, and curricula perspective).