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In-Service Programs in Learning Disabilities

Position Statement

National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities

About this Document

September 27, 1981

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has endorsed the following position paper of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities. For further information, contact Stan Dublinske, Director, State/Regulatory Policy, ASHA.

WHEREAS, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has supported the need for quality continuing education for all individuals serving the communicatively handicapped including those serving the learning disabled, and

WHEREAS, in-service programs are the principal means through which educational agencies change interaction between teachers and students, and

WHEREAS, in-service programs are most effective when planning is based on identified needs, when qualified consultants are used and training is provided on a multi-disciplinary basis and

WHEREAS, ASHA representatives to the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities have cooperated with other national organizations to arrive at consensus on the recommendations for providing in-service education about learning disabilities; therefore

LC 17-82. RESOLVED, That the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) endorse in concept the position paper of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) titled “In-service Programs in Learning Disabilities” and further

RESOLVED, That the Executive Board communicate to the NJCLD the support of ASHA for concepts embodied in the position paper; and further RESOLVED, that the NJCLD position paper be provided to those individuals requesting information on in-service programs in learning disabilities.

In-service programs are the principal means through which educational agencies change the interaction between teachers and students. It is the position of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) that systematic in-service programs be established for persons who are responsible for providing programs and services to individuals with learning disabilities. The need for quality in-service programs is motivated by mandates of Public Law 94-142, the lack of consistent pre-service preparation and training in the learning disabilities, and by the recognition that professionals are responsible for the continued enhancement of their competencies. This paper presents some concerns and recommendations of the NJCLD, with regard to the development of in-service programs for professionals who are providing services to individuals with learning disabilities.

In-service programs are most effective when these activities are planned to meet local needs, are equally available to all teachers, administrators and specialists, and when there is clear support and provision made by local boards of education, superintendents, principals, and other administrative officials. However, it is too often the case that deterrents to the provision of effective in-service programs are encountered. Among these deterrents are the following: (a) a lack of appropriate planning and organization of goals and content prior to beginning the program; (b) inappropriate selection and use of personnel in consultative and faculty roles; (c) the presentation of material irrelevant to the needs of the participants; (d) limiting and restricting the scope of participation according to professional roles; and (e) a lack of program availability.

The NJCLD, following a careful consideration of these issues and after reviewing model in-service programs as they currently are used nationally, makes the following recommendations with regard to the design and implementation of in-service programs for professionals who are providing services to individuals with learning disabilities.

1. The NJCLD recommends that a needs assessment should be conducted prior to the beginning of in-service programs to ensure appropriate planning and implementation of these programs in the area of learning disabilities.

The design of in-service programs in learning disabilities should be based on an assessment of needs of students and professional personnel, e.g., principals, regular classroom teachers, special educators, learning disabilities specialists, speech-language pathologists and audiologists, reading specialists, school psychologists, vocational educators, and related services staff. When appropriate, the planning and implementation of in-service programs also should include parents and students. Participants should be given an opportunity to establish appropriate objectives and designate the content areas to be included in the in-service program. A prior consideration of needs will establish priorities to meet the participants' goals, define content areas, and result in the use of appropriate consultative services and selection of faculty.

The following content areas, among others, should be considered in the needs assessment and in the planning and implementation of in-service programs.

  • Human growth, development and their variations

  • The psychology of learning

  • The manifestations of learning disabilities

    • spoken language

    • reading

    • written expression

    • mathematics

    • reasoning

  • Identification and assessment of the individual with learning disabilities

  • Curriculum Issues, e.g.,

    • curriculum development, application, and sequence

    • curriculum selection and adaptation of curricular materials

    • alternative curriculum

    • the language of instruction

  • Service delivery models in learning disabilities

  • Teaching methods in learning disabilities

  • Controversial issues in learning disabilities

  • Behavioral and other psychological problems in learning disabilities, e.g.,

    • peer relationships

    • social awareness and adjustment

    • drug abuse

    • alcohol abuse

    • delinquency

  • Career and vocational planning for individuals with learning disabilities

  • Issues related to the long-term nature of learning disabilities and the necessity for the development of a continuum of educational services (preschool, elementary, secondary, post secondary)

2. The NJCLD recommends that the selection of any individual who will provide consultation services or act as faculty for the in-service programs should depend upon the person's competence to address content and to meet the specified goals and objectives of the participants.

It is essential to evaluate the skills and performance of those who provide consultative services and those who act as faculty. Of primary concern is the ability of consultants and faculty to complete stated objectives in planning and providing in-service programs.

3. The NJCLD recommends that the models and the content areas of an effective in-service program be based on a comprehensive review of the existing needs of programs, students, and professional personnel.

Various models for presenting in-service programs should be explored. The models used should be selected following a comprehensive review of existing programs and student needs. It is important that individuals who will participate in the in-service programs have a major role in the planning and design of the in-service model that is used.

Presentation methods should not be restricted to didactic models. Demonstration teaching, the use of case study methods, teleconference arrangements, self-instruction, and the use of teacher assistance teams should not be overlooked. In teacher assistance teams, for example, school-based personnel teams assume primary responsibility for planning and implementing consultative activities within their own school. These individuals should have access to supportive consultative services. The teacher assistance team, in turn, adapts and individualizes the material for local programmatic and professional needs. The National In-Service Network [*] may serve as a resource for models of effective in-service programs and could be used when design of in-service programs is considered.

Effective in-service programs also must reflect the unique and special needs of various educational settings. The programs should reflect the necessity for continuity of educational planning and ensure the articulation of the curriculum for individuals with learning disabilities. Care must be taken in adapting content to preschool, elementary, secondary, and post secondary level requirements.

The effectiveness of in-service programs should be evaluated on both the short-term basis (through goal and objective attainment measurements) and on a long-term, longitudinal basis. The only meaningful evaluation in either case will be the changes in performance of individuals with learning disabilities. At the conclusion of the in-service program, ongoing school based consultative services should be provided to professional participants so as to facilitate the continued development of newly acquired skills and methods of instruction and treatment.

4. The NJCLD recommends that multi-disciplinary in-service training programs be designed and implemented.

In-service programs in learning disabilities have been provided by separating personnel according to professional roles. Regrettably, this has prevented appropriate communication among the various professions, e.g., principals, regular classroom teachers, learning disabilities specialists, speech-language pathologists and audiologists, reading specialists, school psychologists, vocational educators, and related services staff. This contradicts the mandate that assessment, planning, and management of individuals with learning disabilities be multidisciplinary in nature.

To meet this mandate, multidisciplinary in-service training models should be developed. This will promote acquisition and use of competencies across the representative professions and increase interprofessional understanding, cooperation, and respect. Separation of personnel according to professional roles for purposes of in-service programs in learning disabilities is not warranted unless the training involves highly specialized skills or knowledge clearly relevant to only one professional group.

5. The NJCLD recommends that careful consideration be given to issues of availability in the implementation of in-service programs.

The development and implementation of successful in-service programs must consider availability based on geographic location, physical facilities, and travel time requirements. In-service programs should be designed to meet the needs of personnel in urban, suburban, and rural areas. In addition, cost to participants must be considered and, wherever possible, controlled and minimized.

6. The NJCLD urges all local boards of education, superintendents, principals, and other administrative officials to continue their support of effective in-service programs.

The NJCLD recognizes the responsibilities of administrative officials to the entire educational system. The NJCLD urges administrative officials, including local boards of education, superintendents, and principals, to advocate for and ensure the viability of in-service programs through (a) personal participation in the programs, (b) development of appropriate and creative incentive programs for participating professionals, e.g., eligibility for credits toward maintenance of certification, tuition credit assistance for college or university coursework, credits toward salary increments, use of extended employment, (c) permitting participation of professionals in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of in-service programs, (d) provision of release time, (e) provision of financial support, and (f) identification of sources for funding in-service programs, e.g., federal, state, local, private, and public sources.

The eventual success of in-service programs ultimately will depend on the clear and consistent support of administrative officials. However, without cooperation at all levels of the educational system these in-service programs will not meet the needs of the students. The goal must always be the development of programs that reflect the needs of education staffs and parents as they work toward meeting the needs of individuals with learning disabilities.

The National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities is a committee of cooperating organizations concerned with individuals with learning disabilities. Organizations and representatives for the September 1981 meeting included: Association for Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities (Robert Reed, Sylvia Richardson, Shari Sowards); American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (Anthony Bashir, Katharine Butler, Stan Dublinske); Division for Children with Communication Disorder, Council for Exceptional Children (Joan Maynard, Joel Stark, Rhonda Work); Council for Learning Disabilities (Steve Larson, James Leigh); International Reading Association (Jules Abrams, Jack Cassidy); The Orton Dyslexia Society (Drake Duane, Bill Ellis, Mary Lee Enfield, Linda Frank).

Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this final paper in its entirety, including the above explanation.

For a copy of this paper address requests, with the title of the paper, to:


The Orton Dyslexia Society

724 York Road

Baltimore, Maryland 21204

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[*] Department of Education, Office of Special Education, Washington, DC

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Index terms: learning disabilities

Reference this material as: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1981). In-service programs in learning disabilities [Position Statement]. Available from

© Copyright 1981 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association disclaims any liability to any party for the accuracy, completeness, or availability of these documents, or for any damages arising out of the use of the documents and any information they contain.


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