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Canada — Can Learning Disabilities Explain Low Literacy Performance?

February 26, 2011 Comments off

Can Learning Disabilities Explain Low Literacy Performance? (PDF)
Source: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

The primary purpose of this report is to explore within the Canadian context the relationship between Self-Reported Learning Disabilities (SRLD) and low literacy performance using the Canadian portion of the public data set from the 2003 International Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (IALSS). Two primary research questions related to SRLD were asked: 1) What is the influence of SRLD status on prose literacy scores after controlling for a number of variables known to impact on prose literacy? and 2) Are variables most strongly associated with self-reported LD the same as those for low literacy skill? In answering the first question it was found that a difference of 33 points existed between the mean prose score of those with a SRLD and those without, in favour of those without. However, after controlling for a number of variables known to influence prose literacy the difference fell to approximately 15 points. Results from answering the second question indicate that higher levels of SRLD are present for, but not limited to, those:

  1. in the younger age cohort,
  2. with lower levels of education,
  3. with various co-occurring disabilities, and
  4. who received remedial reading while in school.

Moreover, remedial reading is the variable that most clearly differentiates those who report a LD compared to those who do not. Reporting a LD was predictive of whether remedial services were received and yet when looking at mean prose scores at each literacy level by LD status and Remedial services, little difference in outcomes was observed. The observed trends strongly suggest that both Learning Disability and low literacy should be recognized as being so closely related that differentiating between them given the current state of assessment procedures and intervention strategies is unnecessary and overly burdensome to both individuals and the larger education system as a whole. It needs to be acknowledged that LD is not the only reason for poorly developed reading skills and that it is better to provide assistance to all who need it by tailoring services according to need. This may have significant policy implications regarding the value of identification, diagnosis and funding related to those who meet the current definitional criteria for diagnosis of a Learning Disabilities.

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