Learning Disabilities:

Practical Information for the Classroom Teacher


Instructor Name:          Dr. A.N. (Bob) Pillay

Phone:                         509-891-7219

Office Hours:              8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST Monday - Friday

Email:                          bobp@virtualeduc.com

Address:                      Virtual Education Software

                                    16201 E Indiana Ave, Suite 1450

                                    Spokane, WA 99216

Technical Support:       support@virtualeduc.com


Learning Disabilities: Practical Information for the Classroom Teacher, is an interactive computer-based instruction course, which provides an introduction to the field of Learning Disabilities for special education teachers, general classroom teachers, integration teachers and related professionals, especially those working in the areas of language, psychology and counseling.


This course will cover diverse theoretical approaches, lay the foundations for sensitive and appropriate assessment and evaluation of students, provide directions for program planning and implementation, indicate the importance of and the need for a close, positive partnership with parents (or alternative caregivers) and consider ways for ensuring that the home-school axis is effective and meaningful. It will also consider some major trends and unresolved issues in the field of Learning Disabilities. 


The course is organized around four chapters that highlight new, sometimes controversial, but always relevant views or practices to this most dynamic of educational fields. Each chapter will include a list of objectives. The objectives will help you focus your readings and discussions as well as clarify tasks that you should undertake to marry theory and practice.


This computer-based instruction course is a self-supporting program that provides instruction, structured practice, and evaluation all on your home or school computer.  Technical support information can be found in the Help section of your course.

Course Materials (Online)
Title:                Learning Disabilities: Practical Information for the Classroom Teacher

Instructor:        Dr. A.N. (Bob) Pillay

Publisher:         Virtual Education Software, inc. 2001, Revised 2002, Revised 2010, Revised 2013


Academic Integrity Statement

The structure and format of most distance-learning courses presume a high level of personal and academic integrity in completion and submission of coursework. Individuals enrolled in a distance-learning course are expected to adhere to the following standards of academic conduct.


Academic Work

Academic work submitted by the individual (such as papers, assignments, reports, tests) shall be the student’s own work or appropriately attributed, in part or in whole, to its correct source. Submission of commercially prepared (or group prepared) materials as if they are one’s own work is unacceptable.


Aiding Honesty in Others

The individual will encourage honesty in others by refraining from providing materials or information to another person with knowledge that these materials or information will be used improperly.


Violations of these academic standards will result in the assignment of a failing grade and subsequent loss of credit for the course.

Expected Learning Outcomes

As a result of this course, participants will demonstrate their ability to:

·         Answer written examination questions on the major causes of learning disabilities (LD).                                    

·         Answer written examination questions on the main factors that impact social understanding of learning disabilities.

·         Answer written examination questions on the models and types of assessments used to evaluate students for a possible learning disability.           

·         Answer written examination questions on the primary sources from which curriculum is derived for LD students.

·         Answer written examination questions on the required process of a complete Individualized Educational Program.     

·         Answer written examination questions on strategies for instructional planning and programming.

·         Answer written examination questions on the major professional and parent pitfalls that impact the working relationship between parents and teacher.


Course Description

The four chapters to be covered in this course are:

·         Introduction, Definition, Characteristics & Causes

·         Assessment

·         Working with the Student & Curriculum

·         Parent Involvement & Issues


Chapter 1: Introduction, Definition, Characteristics & Causes

This chapter presents an introduction to the concept of learning disabilities. It emphasizes the definition(s), the learner characteristics, etiology, and theoretical foundations that underpin policy and program directions in the field.


The problem of formulating a definition that is universally acceptable is discussed as we analyze some of the more "well regarded and influential" definitions. Learner characteristics, especially as they impact teachers and other service providers within a school context, will be considered. However it is important not to ignore the role and major contributions of the other related disciplines, especially medicine, psychology and psychometrics.


What causes learning disabilities? Our brief consideration of this issue is intended to draw attention to the link between learning disabilities and the central nervous system, the issues resulting from this link, and the impact these issues have on practices, definitions, and views of learning disabilities.


The history of special education has influenced our attitudes, philosophies, practices and programs. Research, changes in social justice perspectives, societal changes and "new" community standards and expectations, "discoveries", to name a few factors, all impact the field of learning disabilities. The various “leaders” in the history of special education influence all our practices and our programs.


A brief note about outstanding individuals who have influenced this area of study is included in our coverage of the history of learning disabilities.


Chapter 2: Assessment

Assessment is an integral part of the identification and education of children with learning disabilities. As such its main purpose is to improve learning. Other purposes take on a lower priority for us as teachers but assume a higher priority for other professions. New laws, philosophies and new or improved assessment instruments all impact this area (For a start consider IDEA, high stakes assessment, alternative/authentic assessment or sophisticated technology--scans, data analysis, etc.). This chapter will consider the purposes and the assumptions that underpin assessment. We will also consider the steps that need to be followed if the assessment task is to be undertaken in a systematic way. Learning disabilities is a dynamic field and it is nowhere more evident than in assessment, where the cry is for more responsive and authentic ways of assessing students. We discuss this and also cover the material related to conventional areas of assessment in our effort to identify accurately a very nebulous concept.


Chapter 3: Working with the Student & Curriculum

We begin this chapter by looking at a definition of curriculum, and then, consider how the information gathered under assessment can be structured to provide direction to the work that needs to be undertaken with a student who has learning disabilities. We look at the different sources of the curriculum and consider the variables that influence the curriculum and the program. How all of this fits into the IEP is a major undertaking of this chapter.


Chapter 4: Parent Involvement & Issues

How to plan and improve conferences is covered in this chapter as well as a discussion of research literature, policy initiatives and legislation that address parent and family involvement in the school lives of special education students.  The numerous challenges encountered when parents and teachers work together as a team to help students with learning disabilities are also discussed. 


Family involvement in educational planning is a central point in both policy and legislation related to students with disabilities. Research, however, shows that problems still persist in creating the context in which families feel welcome, empowered and valued. How to respond to this situation is a major focus of this chapter. We look at the benefits of the partnership and the areas where parents and teachers might work closely together. We consider the pitfalls from both perspectives, and then, look closely at the parent-teacher conference as the point where the partnership truly takes root and marks the beginning of the program response for the student.


Learning disabilities is the most dynamic of all the areas in special education. With so many disciplines having a vested interest in this area, it is no wonder that there is such a large number of what may be called "unresolved issues." Each of the major topics we studied in this overview of learning disabilities presents us with a number of such issues. We touch upon two that are topical.


Student Expectations 

As a student you will be expected to:

·         Complete all four information sections showing a competent understanding of the material presented in each section.

·         Complete all four section examinations, showing a competent understanding of the material presented.  You must obtain an overall score of 70% or higher, with no individual exam score below 50%, and successfully complete ALL writing assignments to pass this course.  *Please note: Minimum exam score requirements may vary by college or university; therefore, you should refer to your course addendum to determine what your minimum exam score requirements are.

·         Complete a review of any section on which your examination score was below 50%.

·         Retake any examination, after completing an information review, to increase that examination score to a minimum of 50%, making sure to also be achieving an overall exam score of a minimum 70% (maximum of three attempts). *Please note: Minimum exam score requirements may vary by college or university; therefore, you should refer to your course addendum to determine what your minimum exam score requirements are.

·         Complete all course journal article and essay writing assignments with the minimum word count shown for each writing assignment.

·         Complete a course evaluation form at the end of the course.



At the end of each chapter, you will be expected to complete an examination designed to assess your knowledge. You may take these exams a total of three times. Your last score will save, not the highest score. After your third attempt, each examination will lock and not allow further access.  The average from your exam scores will be printed on your certificate.  However, this is not your final grade since your required writing assignments have not been reviewed.  Exceptionally written or poorly written required writing assignments, or violation of the academic integrity policy in the course syllabus, will affect your grade.  As this is a self-paced computerized instruction program, you may review course information as often as necessary. You will not be able to exit any examinations until you have answered all questions. If you try to exit the exam section before you complete all questions, your information will be lost. You are expected to complete the entire exam in one sitting.


Writing Assignments

All assignments are reviewed and may impact your final grade.  Exceptionally or poorly written assignments, or violation of the Academic Integrity Policy (see course syllabus for policy), will affect your grade. Fifty percent of your grade is determined by your writing assignments, and your overall exam score determines the other fifty percent.  Refer to the Essay Grading Guidelines which were sent as an attachment with your original course link.


You should also refer to the Course Syllabus Addendum which was sent as an attachment with your original course link, to determine if you have any writing assignments in addition to the Critical Thinking Questions (CTQ) and Journal Article Summations (JAS).  If you do, the Essay Grading Guidelines will also apply.


1)         Critical Thinking Questions

      There are four CTQs that you are required to complete. You  will need to write a minimum of 500 words       (maximum 1,000) per essay. You  should explain how the information that you gained from the course will be       applied and clearly convey a strong understanding of the course content as it relates to each CTQ.  To view       the questions, click on REQUIRED ESSAY and choose the CTQ that you are ready to complete; this will bring       up a screen where you may enter your essay.  Prior to course submission, you may go back at any point to edit       your essay, but you must be certain to click SAVE once you are done with your edits.


            You must click SAVE before you write another essay or move on to another part of the course.


2)         Journal Article Summations

      You are required to write, in your own words, a summary on a total of three peer-reviewed or scholarly journal                   articles (one article per summation), written by an author with a Ph.D. on topics related to this course (blogs,        abstracts, news             articles or similar are not acceptable).  You may choose your topics by entering any of the Key       Words (click on the Key Words button) or any other words that pertain to the course, into a search engine of your        choice (Bing, Google, Yahoo, etc.).  Choose a total of three relevant articles and write a thorough summary of        the information presented in each article (you must write a minimum of 200 words with a 400 word maximum        per JAS). Be sure to provide the URL or the journal name, volume, date, and any other critical information to        allow the instructor to access and review that article.  Please note, the citation of your article will not count          towards meeting your minimum word count.


      To write your summary, click on REQUIRED ESSAYS and choose the JAS that you would like to complete. A       writing program will automatically launch where you can write your summary. When you are ready to stop, click           SAVE.  Prior to course submission you may go back at any point to edit your summaries but you must be certain to click SAVE once you are done with your edits. For more information on the features of this       assignment, please consult the HELP menu.


      You must click SAVE before you write another summary or move on to another part of the course.


Instructor Description

Dr. Bob Pillay is a doctoral-level instructor who has been teaching in the field of Special Education for the past 30 years. Dr. Pillay has received numerous national and international awards for his research in the field. He has headed boards and committees in more than five countries, including Australia, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia, to develop and strengthen special services. Dr. Pillay has extensive knowledge of special education issues in the U.S. due to his doctoral studies at the University of Louisville. He was the Founding Director of the Learning Improvement Centre, which was a training facility for teachers, and was a service provider to students with learning problems. He is currently a retired Senior Lecturer and Senior Fellow in Special Education at the University of Melbourne.

Contacting the Instructor

You may contact the instructor by emailing bobp@virtualeduc.com or by calling (509) 891-7219 Monday through Friday, 8:00a.m.-5:00p.m. PST.  Phone messages will be returned within 24 hours. Phone conferences will be limited to ten minutes per student, per day, given that this is a self-paced instructional program. Please do not contact the instructor about technical problems, course glitches, or other issues that involve the operation of the course.

Technical Questions

If you have questions or problems related to the operation of this course, please try everything twice. If the problem persists please check our support pages for FAQs and known issues at www.virtualeduc.com and also the Help section of your course.


If you need personal assistance then email support@virtualeduc.com or call (509) 891-7219.  When contacting technical support, please know your course version number (it is located at the bottom left side of the Welcome Screen) and your operating system, and be seated in front of the computer at the time of your call. 


Minimum Computer Requirements

Please refer to VESi’s website: www.virtualeduc.com or contact VESi if you have further questions about the compatibility of your operating system.


Refer to the addendum regarding Grading Criteria, Course Completion Information, Items to be Submitted and how to submit your completed information. The addendum will also note any additional course assignments that you may be required to complete that are not listed in this syllabus.


Bibliography (Suggested Readings)


Ayers, H. (2006). An A to Z practical guide to learning difficulties. London, UK: David Fulton.

Bender, W. N. (2008). Learning disabilities: Characteristics and teaching strategies (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Dyches,T. T., Carter, N. J., & Prater, M. A. (2012). A teacher’s guide to communicating with parents: Practical strategies for developing successful relationships. Columbus, OH: Pearson.

Farrell, M. (2012). Educating special children (2nd ed.). Oxford, UK: Routledge.

Friend, M. D., & Bursuck, W. D. (2012). Including students with special needs: A practical guide for classroom teachers (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.         

Hallahan, D. P., Kauffman, J. M., & Lloyd, J. W. (2005). Learning disabilities: Foundations, characteristics and effective learning (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Hallahan, D.P., Kauffman, J.M., & Pullen, P. C. (2012). Exceptional learners: An introduction to special education
(12th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Heward, W. L. (2013). Exceptional children: An introduction to special education (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Layton, C. A., & Lock, R. H. (2008). Assessing students with special needs to produce quality outcomes. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.

Lerner, J. W., & Johns, B. (2009). Learning disabilities and related mild disabilities: Characteristics, teaching strategies, and new directions (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Mandlawitz, M. (2007). What every teacher should know about IDEA 2004 laws and regulations. Boston, MA: Pearson.

McLoughlin, J. A., & Lewis, R. B. (2008). Assessing students with special needs (7th ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill.

McNamara, B. E. (2007). Learning disabilities: Bridging the gap between research and classroom practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.

Mercer, C. D., & Pullen, P. C. (2009). Students with learning disabilities (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Merrill.

Mercer, C. D., Mercer, A. R., & Pullen, P. C. (2011). Teaching students with learning problems (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Merrill.

Olson, G. W., & Fuller, M. L. (2008). Home school relations: Working successfully with parents and families (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Petrosino, P., & Spiegel, L. (2006). No parent left behind: A guide to working with your child’s school. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Pierangelo, R., & Giuliani, G. A. (2013). Learning disabilities: A practical approach to foundations, assessment, diagnosis, and teaching. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. 

Polloway, E., Patton, J., & Sernia, L. (2008). Strategies for teaching learners with special needs (8th ed.). Columbus, OH: Pearson.

Porton, H. D. (2013). Helping struggling learners succeed in school. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.  

Raymond, E. B. (2012). Learners with mild disabilities: A characteristics approach (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.      

Richards, G., & Armstrong, F. (2010). Teaching and learning in diverse and inclusive classrooms. London, UK: Fulton.

Roffman, A. J. (2008). Guiding teens with learning disabilities: Navigating the transition from high school to adulthood. New York, NY: Random House.

Sileo, N. M., & Prater, M. A. (2012). Working with families of children with special needs: Family and professional partnerships and roles. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Smith, D. D., & Tyler, N. C. (2010). Introduction to special education: Making a difference (7th ed.). Columbus, OH: Pearson.

Smith, T. E. C., Polloway, E. A., Patton, J. R., & Dowdy, C. A. (2012). Teaching students with special needs in inclusive settings (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Smith, T. E. C., Gartin  B. L.,& Murdick, N. L. (2012). Including adolescents with disabilities in general education classrooms. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Turnbull, A, Turnbull, H. R., Wehmeyer, M., & Shogren, K. A. (2013). Exceptional lives: Special education in today’s schools (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.           

Turnbull, A.,Turnbull, H. R, Erwin, E. J., Soodak, L., & Shogren, K. (2011). Families, professionals and exceptionality: Positive outcomes through partnerships and trust (6th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Vaughn, S., & Bos, S. (2012). Strategies for teaching students with learning and behavior problems (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Vaughn, S., Bos, C., & Schumm, J. S. (2006). (International ed.). Teaching students who are exceptional, diverse, and at-risk in the general education classroom (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Vaughn, S., Bos, C., & Schumm, J. S. (2010). (International ed.). Teaching students who are exceptional, diverse, and at-risk in the general education classroom (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Wong, Y. B. L., Graham, L., Hoskyn, M., & Berman, J. (Eds.). (2008). ABCs of learning disabilities (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Elsevier/Academic Press.


Web Sites
The International Dyslexia Association

LD Online

LD Resources

Learning Disabilities Worldwide

National Center for Learning Disabilities


National Research Centre on Learning Disabilities


SchwabLearning.org: A Parent's Guide to Helping Kids with Learning Disabilities

Teaching LD: Information and Resources for Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities


Do a search for this on the Internet: NICHCY


Academic Therapy, Annals of Dyslexia, ASHA, Australian Citizen Limited, Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, Australian Journal of Remedial Education, Australian Journal of Special Education, Educational Leadership, Exceptional Children, Children Quarterly, Exceptional Parent, Focus on Exceptional Children, Instructor, Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis, Journal of Learning Disabilities, Journal of Reading, Journal of Special Education, Kappa Delta Phi Record, Learning Disabilities Quarterly, Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, Reading Research Quarterly, The Reading Teacher, Remedial and Special Education, Teaching Exceptional Children


Course content is updated every three years. Due to this update timeline, some URL links may no longer be active or may have changed. Please type the title of the organization into the command line of any Internet browser search window and you will be able to find whether the URL link is still active or any new link to the corresponding organization's web home page.


4/16/15 JN