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A Critical Analysis of Siegel's Case for Revision of the Learning Disability Construct

Cole, Peter G. ;
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    In this paper I analyse Siegel's revisionist conceptualization of the learning disability concept. Siegel has attempted to demonstrate that the construct of learning disabilities is flawed because of its long-term linkage with the variable of intelligence. The discrepancy formulation is the particular focus of her criticism. She has denigrated the use of IQ tests in LD diagnosis and argued that intelligence and reading measure many of the same abilities and therefore any difference between these two functions is confounded; that IQ is not a valid measure of reading potential in children with LD and normal populations; and that logical analysis and empirical research demonstrate that the concept of intelligence is redundant in any conception of learning disabilities. I present arguments against each of these propositions and several other matters raised in her paper. I propose two basic approaches to learning disabilities and give expression to these in two theoretical models, a simple categorical model (designated as Model C) and the underachievement model (Model D). I show that Siegel's interpretation is based on a weak version of Model C, but that this model fails to elucidate the essential meaning of the learning disability construct. I show that Model D is the more appropriate alternative. I contend that the application of standard regression procedures inherent in Model D would lead to a more appropriate definition of LD and that more stringent standards for the underachievement criterion would offset many of the problems that Siegel has highlighted in her paper.


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