Townsend on Learning Disabilities
New on Westlaw: Nicholas L. Townsend, Framing a Ceiling as a Floor: The Changing Definition of Learning Disabilities and the Conflicting Trends in Legislation Affecting Learning Disabled Students, 40 Creighton L. Rev. 229 (2007). From the introduction:
The ADA licensing exam cases and the No Child Left Behind legislation are in philosophical tension. Recent Supreme Court cases have narrowed the ADA's definition of disability for fear that a broad definition that recognizes too many people as disabled will undermine the Act's potency. No Child Left Behind and its companion legislation, on the other hand, try to integrate children with disabilities into the mainstream of American education instead of drawing a sharp distinction between disabled and non-disabled. Both are policy choices born of good intentions. However, the average person standard, which arises to some extent in both contexts, dangerously shifts the essential meaning of learning disabilities. Measuring learning disability by comparison to the average person instead of an individual's potential is underinclusive, excluding those learning disabled students with high potential from receiving the accommodations they need to realize it. In effect, the average person standard becomes a restriction on their rights. These laws change the definition of learning disabilities in a way that threatens to bar a specific category of high-achieving learning disabled individuals from realizing their potential by placing a ceiling on their right to claim legal protection.