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Notes Presented by
Information Officer, LDAC
The Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC) is a national, non-profit voluntary organization, founded in 1963 and incorporated in 1971. Its mission statement is to advance the education, employment, social development, legal rights and general well-being of people with learning disabilities.
The approximate membership is 10,000. Although the majority are parents, a good proportion of the membership includes individuals with learning disabilities, physicians, psychologists, lawyers, language experts, optometrists, psychiatrists, public health and physical education personnel, educators, and members of school boards and administrators.
There is a Learning Disabilities Association in each province and territory of Canada and from these extends a network of chapters in more than 95 communities across the country. These Associations are affiliated with the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada and share the same aims and objectives.
LDAC, the national body, does not provide direct services to clients although its activities include the collection and dissemination of information on learning disabilities (LD) in the areas of prevention, early identification, assessment, education, intervention, social interaction, health, coping skills, family support, advocacy, transitions, employment, and justice to consumers, parents, professionals, various levels of government, and other agencies.
During the course of the past three decades, the LDAC has established itself both in Canadian and international arenas as a credible agency. The level of respect that the agency commands is in part due to the cooperative model upon which it is built. In addition to the Board of Directors, which includes strong consumer representation and equal representation from all provinces/territories, LDAC has a Professional Advisory Committee (PAC) to which approximately fifteen recognized Canadian experts are appointed.
Although members of the PAC do not meet as a group, its volunteer professionals in the areas of pediatrics, psychology, neuropsychology, educational psychology, speech and language pathology, justice, etc. allow for easy access to expertise in areas of interest.
Also involved is a Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC), a group of adults with learning disabilities representing all provinces and territories who provide their input in the many programs and publications LDAC is involved in.
The LDAC has published a number of manuals, guides, self-help and reference books to meet the growing needs of persons with LD. Project management has included small and large initiatives. Workshops for judges, literacy workers, correctional services educators, probation officers and volunteers have been offered in all provinces and territories.
Screening and teaching tools have been developed to increase the literacy capacity of the adult with LD. Early identification guides for parents, day-care providers, educators have been developed and widely acclaimed.
Ongoing public awareness initiatives include the annual celebration of LD month with activities held in communities across the country. Bi-annual national conferences on LD held in various provinces/territories reach consumers, parents, educators, and researchers.
LDAC has been invited to present a number of briefs to Federal Parliamentary Standing Committees (Finance, Justice, Corrections, Environment, Health) on issues concerning the impact of federal policy changes and programming on Canadians with learning disabilities.
Learning Disabilities and Reading
Difficulty in learning to read is the most common issue for more than 80% of people with learning disabilities1. In many schools, children are not identified as having a learning disability until they have failed for an extended period because of a 'formula' used to determine whether a student is 'eligible' for special services. A child should not have to fail for two or three years to demonstrate evidence of a learning disability.
However, recent research studies have found that for 85 to 90 percent of poor readers, prevention and early identification programs that combine instruction in phoneme awareness, phonics, spelling, reading fluency and reading comprehension strategies provided by well-trained teachers can increase reading skills to average reading levels.
If early intervention is delayed until nine years of age (the time that most children with reading disabilities first receive services) approximately 75 percent of these children will continue to have difficulties learning to read throughout high school and their adult years. While older children and adults can be taught to read, the time and expense of doing so is enormous compared to what is required to teach them when they are five or six years old2.
Researchers also found that if intervention is not provided before the age of eight, the probability of reading difficulties continuing into high school is 75 percent. Children who do not read well begin to suffer the consequences of other academic learning. Over time their IQ scores may drop because they are not exposed to the vocabulary, the background information, and the complex ideas found in books and they may miss out on important content. So a reading problem, allowed to go untreated, has a cumulative debilitating effect3.
35% of students identified with learning disabilities drop out of high school. This is twice the rate of non-disabled peers and does not include students who are not identified and drop out4.
The Conference Board of Canada determined that dropouts from the high school class of 1987 will cost society more than $1.7 billion in lost taxes5. Of these, no data was available to determine how many of these drop-outs were identified with learning.
30% of adults with severe literacy problems were found to have undetected or untreated LD6.
The statistics mentioned above show that for the majority of individuals with learning disabilities postsecondary education is not an option. Typically, they have numerous jobs which they hold down for an average of three months. They quit or do not pass their three-month probation and find themselves on the merry go round of hiring and firing, until they give up.
Many find it embarrassing, frustrating, and are fearful when they think others are going to find out that they are not able to handle a job because of their learning disability. Job related problems may arise for adults with learning disabilities as a result of their difficulties with tasks that require reading, organizing, planning, scheduling, and/or monitoring; difficulties with language comprehension and expression; poor social skills; inattentiveness; or not being able to process the material or handle the speed at which they are required to complete a task.
Others settle for entry level jobs even if they have the potential and skills to progress well beyond that point. This allows them to be able to hide from asking for help or feeling that they are stupid if they cannot spell or do mathematics as well as what may be required at the next level. As they become comfortable in their situation, it is harder for them to be promoted in the workplace. Many adults need to return to school or take literacy training for them to be successful at education and work.
Why? Their reading and writing abilities hold them back. Some may not reach employment at all. Lack of basic education is a barrier not only to employment, but for on the job training necessary to continue employment. Accommodations and support for these problems may increase employability but if reading difficulties are at the core, these individuals are more likely to be the first to lose their jobs, and less likely to find employment. Without education and experience, individuals with learning disabilities are going to continue being unemployed or under employed. Many individuals do not understand the areas which they excel in and which they struggle with.
The inappropriate fit between skills and jobs, the lack of appropriate diagnosis and interventions in the school system, and a lack of understanding of their specific learning disabilities have all contributed to giving these individuals the wrong impression about their abilities.
For many, setting foot into a library brings back old, negative, unpleasant memories of failures and inadequacies. The world of words and books is not a welcoming place for them to be in. Accessibility to the printed word through alternate means and awareness of this service available through the public libraries will definitely encourage participation of the LD individual. However, awareness and technology training of the library staff will be needed to make it a success. An massive awareness campaign through mass media will be needed to attract the attention of the LD individual to these new services.
1. "What a Decade of Research Tells Us About Learning Disabilities in Children and Adults," NIFL Newsletter, distributed in the Roads to Learning packet of the American Library of Association, Chicago, 1997.
2. Dr. Reid Lyon, testimony before the Committee on Education and workforce, a committee of the U. S. House of Representatives, July 10, 1997.
3. ' Straight Talk About Reading' by Susan L. Hall and Louisa C. Moats, 1999.
4. Washington Summit on Learning Disabilities, 1994.
5. Dr. Doherty, 1997, 'Zero to Six: The Basis for School Readiness, HRDC.
6. National Adult Literacy and Learning Disabilities Center, 1994.