LDAC Research on LDs

Over the years, LDAC has convened experts from across Canada to examine specific research areas in the field of learning disabilities that are of particular interest to its grassroot members. Many of the findings have had major impact on policy development and programs that have enhanced access to more equitable opportunities for individuals with learning disabilities, their families and those that work with them in school, at home, in the workplace and in the community.

Below are links to some of its most recent published research studies.

February 2009 - The Mental Health of Canadians With Self-Reported Learning Disabilities
Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 42, No. 1, 24-40 (2009)

Co-Principal Investigators Dr. Alexander M. Wilson, Director of the Meighen Centre at Mount Allison University, in New Brunswick and Adele Furrie, an Ottawa-based consultant in disability statistics and joined by researchers Dr. Elizabeth Walcot-Gayda, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and Dr. Catherine Deri Armstrong, Department of Economics of the University of Ottawa. As part of the groundbreaking applied research study ‘Putting a Canadian Face on Learning Disabilities’ (PACFOLD) released in March 2007, the team also examinedrates of mental health problems among persons with learning disabilities (PWOD) aged 15 to 44 yearsusing a large, nationally representative data set.


There has been growing concern as to the mental health statusof PWLD. PWLD weremore than twice as likely to report high levels of distress,depression, anxiety disorders, suicidal thoughts, visits tomental health professionals, and poorer overall mental healththan were persons without disabilities (PWOD). Multivariateregression analyses determined that these significantly higherrates of mental health problems remained for all six measuresafter controlling for confounding factors including income,education, social support, and physical health. Differencesfound in the older adult sample (ages 30—44) were evenlarger than in the adolescent sample (ages 15—21) forsuicidal thoughts, depression, and distress. Males with learningdisabilities were more likely to report depressive episodes,anxiety disorders, and consultations with health professionals,whereas females with learning disabilities were more likelyto report high distress, suicidal thoughts, and poor generalmental health relative to PWOD. On balance, learning disabilitieswere not found to be more detrimental to mental health for onegender or the other.

November 2008 - A Pan-Canadian perspective on the professional knowledge base of learning disabilities

D.F. Philpott & M. Cahill

International Journal of Disability, Community and Rehabilitation (IJDCR)
Volume 7, No. 2 (Fall 2008)



This study explores the professional knowledge base of learning disabilities (LD) in Canada by examining the pre-service training of both teachers and psychologists, as well as the existence of policy designed to guide their work. Particular attention is given to assessment practices and the process of developing academic accommodations for these students. Since education in Canada is completely a provincial and territorial jurisdiction, the authors were interested in exploring commonalities of educational policy and standards of knowledge among the professionals charged with responding to the needs of these students. Findings acknowledge that there exists great diversity in both the professionals who work with students who have LD and in actual models of support that schools offer. Nonetheless, the study raises questions on the knowledge base in LD and the need for enhanced professional development opportunities, and supports a dialogue for common policy in Canadian schools.

March 2007 - Putting a Canadian Face on Learning Disabilities (PACFOLD) is a groundbreaking applied research study that started in 2004 by the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, (LDAC) with a $302,000 contribution from the Federal Government - Social Development Partnership Program – Disability component.

Led by a team of top Canadian researchers headed by co-principal investigators, Dr. Alexander M. Wilson, Director of the Meighen Centre at Mount Allison University, in New Brunswick and Adele Furrie, an Ottawa-based expert in disability statistics and joined by researchers Dr. Elizabeth Walcot-Gayda, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Dr. Catherine Deri Armstrong, Department of Economics of the University of Ottawa, and Andrew Archer, an information data retrieval expert, the goal of the research was to find out what it means to be a child, youth or adult with learning disabilities in Canada.

This three-phase project, released in March 2007, with its focus on knowledge — obtaining, quantifying and disseminating, provides a better understanding of the impact of learning disabilities on the lives of Canadian children, youth and adults, and what their challenges are.

PACFOLD uncovered compelling evidence of what our national network has witnessed anecdotally for decades—left undiagnosed, untreated and/or not accommodated, Canadians with LD are unable to reach their potential, resulting in high costs to the Canadian economy.

LDAC offers this website to policy makers, professionals, media, parents and others to ensure that there is access to key LD data and to expand awareness about what LD is and whom the condition impacts.

January 2002 – new national definition on learning disabilities adopted by LDAC board of directors

The new national definition of learning disabilities, six years in the making, has been ratified by its membership from every province and territory in Canada. The new definition encompasses the whole spectrum of learning disabilities and the effects that these disabilities might have on individuals and families.

What distinguishes this definition from the previous one? The new scientific, national definition is based on solid research gathered over six years by a panel of experts from across Canada.

The definition touches on four important aspects of the research: learning disabilities are lifelong; they are neurobiological; they are genetic; and they affect all areas of life, NOT just education.


The new definition will have a major impact on medical practice and in the courts as more and more professionals recongnize the REAL impact that LDs have on the individual.





January 2002 - Learning Disabilities in Canada: Economic Costs to Individuals, Families and Societyprepared for LDAC by the Roeher Institute


This research provides an estimate of the incremental direct and indirect costs of learning disabilities (LD) to individuals who have LD, to their families and to society more broadly. The focus of the research is on people with LD from birth to retirement and examines the following direct costs to individuals with LD (and their families) and costs to public (and private) programs:

  • Hospital services
  • Services of medical doctors
  • Miscellaneous health-related and social services
  • Medications
  • Education services
  • Criminal justice services
  • Income transfers through the Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance, Workers Compensation and provincial Welfare programs
  • Services provided by community agencies to assist with everyday activities because of disability.

Key indirect costs to people with LD and their families that are examined are:

  • Reduced earnings of people with LD
  • Reduced household incomes



Fall 2001 – Neurobiological Basis of Learning Disabilities: An Update

Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, Volume 11, No. 2. (2001)

Principal Investigators: Christina Fiedorowicz, PhD, CPsych.; Esther Benezra, PhD, BCL, LLB; G. Wayne MacDonald, PhD; Barbara McElgunn, RN and Health Policy Adviser for LDAC, Alexander (Les) M. Wilson, PhD; Bonnie J. Kaplan, PhD.


LDAC convened the authors of this paper to summarize the considerable research literature that has provided evidence that learning disabilities are a neurobiologically based condition. The paper reviews recent research in the field of learning disabilities and, in particular, developmental dyslexia. It summarizes findings from numeorus studies employing widely divergent methodologies that have attempted to establish the neurobiological, and neuropsychological investigations. On the basisi of the evidence compiled, it seems impossible to deny that learning disabilities are a manifestations of atypical brain development and/or function.

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