Perceptions and Realities

  • Karen Zelan
Part of the Perspectives in Developmental Psychology book series (PDPS)


Teachers are often puzzled by the normally intelligent child who is free from specific disabilities and yet does not learn in school. As a result, they seek expert advice about these intelligent nonlearning youngsters. Thus, many of those (41 out of 60) who came to see me about their learning difficulties had been referred by their teachers for psycholinguistic screening; screening for auditory, visual, or memory skills; neurological examination; perceptual-motor screening; or projective testing. Thirty-three of the 60 children were given intelligence tests (see data in the Appendix, p. 314). Depending on the nature of the symptoms that accompanied their nonlearning, some children were screened for more than one disability. Because their teachers were often understandably uncertain about which impairment might be implicated in the child’s nonlearning, they often recommended more than one test to ensure that no disability would be overlooked (see pp. 315–316). One child was given 10 screening tests; another was given 14! More children were screened proportionally in the early grades (kindergarten, first, and second) than in the higher grades (third through seventh) — 61% compared to 39%. This finding suggests that teachers see one of their roles as prevention — specifically, to catch learning disabilities early in order to provide proper remediation. However laudable the teacher’s intention to identify learning disabilities, it often had the unfortunate consequence of creating a disability expectation in the child and in the parents. The fact that projective testing was administered only in conjunction with screening for organicity adds to my supposition that these children were perceived as deficient.


Young Person Learning Disorder Disable Learner School Failure School Learning 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Zelan
    • 1
  1. 1.BerkeleyUSA

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