A well-educated society is a powerful and critical factor promoting the prosperous future of the current communities and generations to come. However, students with learning disabilities (LD) might face the same oppression as they receive from the society in which they live. As a result, such an exclusion from education or engagement in inferior or segregated education might enhance societal barriers (Kirby, 2016). This issue is mainly caused by the perpetuation of embedded stereotypes concerning the inequality of individuals with learning disabilities. The aim of this project implies examining special education and learning disabilities through the lenses of social science and humanities to analyze the problem from two contrary perspectives. Thus, the study might enable identification of the gaps in the LD knowledge and promote general advancement in special education.
Considering both chosen perspectives, the special education and issues pertaining to students with learning disabilities might be observed through different opposing views. This can be explained by the fact that learning disabilities manifest in a variety of ways, including social, cognitive, and behavioral skills. According to Pullen, Lane, Ashworth & Lovelace (2017), these involve reading and language-related learning disabilities, as well as specific LD regarding math. Some individuals might have troubles with the ability to process and apply information that they obtain through senses. To be more specific, social science covers the study of society and human interactions. The primary focus of social studies is the area of relationships, which is a major concern regarding students with LD.
The central focus of the current research on learning disabilities and developing special education is the analysis of public policy within the predominant conceptualizations of disabilities. With that said, the general medical model and the contrary social construct model perceive LD in two different ways. For instance, the social construction perspective of disability relies on the established barriers and oppression for students with disabilities. As described by Kirby (2016), this perspective is deeply rooted in the historical contexts that interpret current oppression experience through “social, financial, environmental, and psychological” means (p. 178). Therefore, such a damaging vision, as well as special education, need to be improved and developed in terms of broader concept ad increased disabilities-related knowledge.
By investigating more literature on the social studies’ perspective on LD and special education, one topic can be highly useful to comprehend the existing issues. Shin & Bryant (2016) conducted the research, which considers the problems that students with mathematics learning disabilities (MLD) have to deal with. These problems include the poor understanding of fraction concepts and competencies, which are together the basics of algebra. Hence, the researchers proposed computer-assisted instruction as a beneficial tool that implements evidence-based instructional components, such as “cognitive strategies, feedback, virtual manipulatives” (Shin & Bryant, 2016, p. 77). Despite the mixed findings, the cognitive and metacognitive strategies in Fun Fraction program were proved to be beneficial for facilitating the problem-solving process. Consequently, by delivering explicit, systematic methods and visual representation aids, the teacher can significantly contribute to the multi-piece, computer-mediated intervention.
The broad field of humanities involves the study of human ways of life and being. It is, therefore, a comprehensive concept that examines different areas and stages of human life. One of the crucial disciplines to address the learning disability issue is history. From the historical perspective, oppressed groups of people faced similar treatment and attitude in the classroom settings as in society in general. This means that education was commonly used as an oppressive tool to keep the authority in a state of controlling others.
Another concept related to humanities is the study of language arts and reading skills, as well as associated issues that students with LD face during the learning process. More specifically, Erbey, McLaughlin, Derby & Everson (2011) made research focused on evaluating the effects of reading racetrack and flashcards as part of the teaching strategy regarding phonics, sight words, and addition facts. The students engaged in this project were diagnosed with learning disabilities and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Students were measured in the context of corrects and shortcomings throughout the process of reading from a first-grade level sight word list. However, the research also included math concepts, which are generally referred to as part of the humanities discipline as well. Mathematical assignments were provided for a student with ADHD.
The findings concluded that racetracks paired with the flashcard intervention significantly enhanced the students’ indicators of corrects for each of the subject-related areas, such as “phonics, sight words, and math facts” (Erbey et al., 2011, p. 215). Although, some results implied that some participants demonstrated more successful outcomes than others. As such, further research is needed for more evidence to provide the best quality special education for students with LD in terms of reading, language arts, and math. Patients with learning disabilities show evident struggle with reading competency, which is only the prior point of their educational path. Studying these issues is crucial to provide adequate assistance for students with LD since problems with basic educational knowledge lead to difficulties with secondary education and, thus, adulthood.
As mentioned above, the social studies and humanities lens are both closely intertwined and also distant perspectives in regard to the study of learning disabilities and related special education for students. Considering the interrelated approaches of the two examined lenses, the first similarity is seen in the position that they both go beyond the conceptualized understanding of society and are concerned about the human race. Two lenses have one shared goal, which implies comprehending the human race and its implications on society and existing oppression. The second similar feature can be traced in the aspect of connecting the human being to his or her environment, both social and educational. Humanities, in particular, focus on the factors that have been affecting people for a long time in terms of the historical context that defined the current situation with LD experience and required modifications.
When speaking of the divergence between two critical lenses, it is important to note that both perspectives have contrary underlying areas of focus. Social studies cover the scientific concept of education when humanities are more concerned about the role of humans and philosophical vision of life. In addition, social sciences emphasize more on the interactions while humanities disciplines, as a broader concept, touch upon all other areas of a human’s way of life. The second difference is the approach of the two lenses, the educational approach in particular. With that said, social science adheres to a realistic perspective, such as facts, while humanities rely on generally accepted assumptions, philosophies, and theories.
Finally, one should also discuss the comparison of both lenses at one common perspective regarding LD and approaches to special education. Humanities and social sciences are two concepts that are essential when it comes to designing special education and defining learning disabilities. The two lenses focus on a human being from an environmental and social perspective, which both affect students with LD in a negative way. The two lenses can be perceived as complementary since LD issues manifest in different ways and influence various educational and social aspects of oneself, which was previously discussed. To sum up, educational programming for students with a learning disability should consider the following: decreased restrictive environment, service delivery (instructions for students), and instructional methods.
The major concerns related to special education and significant gaps in studying LD affected society for a long time. However, current research demonstrates that critical successful steps were made towards promoting potential opportunities and equal development for students with learning disabilities. For this reason, Cook & Cook (2016) help to comprehend a basic concept about research designs in order to implement and apply the research results in special education programming properly. As such, there are four research designs commonly implemented in special education, including “descriptive, relational, experimental, and qualitative designs” (Cook & Cook, 2016, p. 196). Different research designs deal with different kinds of questions, which requires an adequate understanding of the question itself. Lemons et al. (2018) state that current special education services lack the ability to integrate an accessible, appropriate public education for all students with LD (p. 141). This can be explained by the insufficient focus on intensive, data-driven, student-oriented, individualized instruction.
It is of the utmost importance for special educators to have adequate expertise in designing and providing beneficial intervention and academic outcomes for students with learning disabilities. The following study was an overwhelming project that significantly broadens my own perception and biases concerning learning disabilities. By analyzing the special education issue and interventions for students with LD from two different but related lenses, one can assume that LD topic is the combination of various social and educational factors and, thus, this issue affects different areas of the life of the student. To conclude, viewing a problem from different perspectives helps to define the issue better and promote a more profound understanding of the related concerns and gaps.
Cook, B. G., & Cook, L. (2016). Research designs and special education research: Different designs address different questions. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 31(4), 190–198.
Erbey, R., McLaughlin, T. F., Derby, K. M., & Everson, M. (2011). The effects of using flashcards with reading racetrack to teach letter sounds, sight words, and math facts to elementary students with learning disabilities. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 3(3), 213–226.
Kirby, M. (2016). Implicit assumptions in special education policy: Promoting full inclusion for students with learning disabilities. Child & Youth Care Forum, 46(2), 175–191.
Lemons, C. J., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J., Kearns, D. M., & Sinclair, A. C. (2018). Envisioning an improved continuum of special education services for students with learning disabilities: Considering intervention intensity. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 33(3), 131–143.
Pullen, P. C., Lane, H. B., Ashworth, K. E., & Lovelace, S. P. (2017). Specific learning disabilities. In Kauffman, J. M., Hallahan, D. P., & Pullen. P. C. (Eds.), Handbook of special education (2nd ed., pp. 286–299). Taylor & Francis.
Shin, M., & Bryant, D. P. (2016). Improving the fraction word problem solving of students with mathematics learning disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 38(2), 76–86.