Founded in 2006 by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the University of Texas at Austin, and funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the center studies the diagnosis, treatment, and causes of learning disabilities in children and adolescents. One of three NICHD-funded learning disability centers in the United States, TCLD also played a crucial role in revising special education legislation so it could provide early identification of at-risk children based on kindergarten screenings — instead of waiting to find discrepancies between IQ and achievement test scores, which research has shown to be unreliable criteria for diagnosing learning disabilities.
"This is a 'wait-to-fail model,'" said David Francis, the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Chair and a co-principal investigator who oversees statistical analysis and data management at TCLD. "There is a need to improve the ways in which intervention can occur for all children at risk without this discrepancy, because often this meant we had to wait for children to fail more and become severely impaired before they could get access to services."
The center applies insights from neuroscientific research as well as findings from classroom studies to the development of practical interventions. Other projects include creating models that incorporate how children respond to intervention, the role of executive functions and attention in reading comprehension and other academic skills, effective interventions for English-language learners with intractable reading difficulties, neural correlates of reading disabilities in children, and genetic factors related to inadequate instructional response.
"We have first-hand knowledge of this need and recognize this program is a rare opportunity in this country that must be preserved and enhanced," the patient's family said in a statement.