Learning Disabilities: Miscreant Brains, Pupils, and Practices

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 1-1-2005



Submission Type


Degree Name



Clinical Psychology


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Michael Sipiora

Committee Member

Paul Richer

Committee Member

Suzanne Barnard


brain, learning disabilities, neurophenomenology


Since the 1960s, learning disabilities (LD) classification assumed brain dysfunction, deficiencies in capacity, and processing deficit. Yet, many theorists noticed that the history of LD was fraught with poorly defined terms, over-diagnosis and faulty assumptions. While outside influences such as parenting or environmental toxins had been given consideration, more often than not LD was framed exclusively in neurological terms. Disability theorists and philosophers utilized socio-philosophical critiques to undermine LD's basic foundation, yet few addressed specifically how conceptions of perceiving, learning and thinking remained obdurately grounded in the predicated innately organized and ontogenetically structured brain. If the brain was the presumed cause of LD (and the site of a production of knowledge), then it seemed appropriate to dialogue with neuroscience while avoiding its essentialist claims.

Through a metabletic historical phenomenology of significant social spaces, brain space was interpreted as socially organized--itself a social space. Then, a genealogical historical phenomenology located the institutionally instruct-able subject (educable by virtue of the right structure inside the brain). The in-structable subject subsequently was seen as learning abled based upon brain organization while the un-in-structable subject was seen as disabled based upon brain disorganization. Through a deconstructive neurophenomenological description of the brain and learning, a dis-enclosed and dis-organized brain resistant to age old assumptions about learning was discovered. It was hoped that the aforementioned will make room for a liberatory pedagogy and curriculum that attends to, and values, the flows of differences in all learning.





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