Severe learning disabilities : an investigation into the incidence and treatment of children failing to reach their reading potential : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts at Massey University
During 1976 teachers in Taranaki, as in other parts of New Zealand, were expressing concern for children who appeared to make scant progress in language skills despite the best endeavours of teacher and pupil. Discussions with psychologists and education department officers resulted, in a research programme being structured to survey such a group. In view of the then current interest in visual and auditory perception deficiencies which were believed to contribute to learning difficulties, investigations were to be made of several strategies. It was planned to institute proceedings which would not only remedy deficiencies but could also become the basis for preventive action with similar pupils at an earlier age. At that time teachers were available to allow staffing of the project and so two schools were selected for field trials. Teacher nominations of candidates were tested and groups of children isolated who would benefit from the programme. Staff training commenced to build up a set of practices which would subsequently be modified as experience was gained. Teachers were also helped to devise monitoring behaviours to ensure adequate and comparable data collection strategies were instituted. During the investigation, changes in approach were made as programmes developed and from new insights resulting from concurrent reviews of the literature which became available. Two major shifts occurred, the second resulting in the abandonment of some major precepts concerning remedial programming. Investigations are still proceeding related to the early identification and preventive aspect. THE PROPOSAL It is now time to go back to the beginning. At that stage the writer held certain beliefs on causation and remediation of reading disabilities which became the basis for examining the hypotheses: • That learning disabled children present a number of neuro-sensory deficits which led to their disability. • That remedial programmes which build up these areas and reading programmes which are tailored to avoid use of those deficits will result in improved performance.