An introduction to our main theme
We introduce this large and very controversial subject with statements collated from various websites. You may not agree with some of these comments and we do not necessarily subscribe to any of them ourselves, but they are representative of the type of belief that is being propounded and, as such, are deserving of attention.
Follow the individual links for more in-depth information on the quotes Links at the foot of this article will take you to related or relevant sites that we hope will prove of interest.
Learning difficulties can be either generalised or specific. .A child with generalised learning difficulties is one that functions at a significantly lower level of intellectual ability than their chronological age. This generally implies an IQ below 70. He or she will find it a struggle to keep up in most subjects with most other children in a mainstream school classroom. Specific learning difficulties, in contrast, refer to a particular area that is difficult for the child. For instance, a child with dyslexia finds reading, writing and/or spelling difficult. A child with a language disorder may find it difficult to understand what the teacher and other pupils say, or may find expressing thoughts difficult. A child with a specific numeracy difficulty may struggle with mathematics, but manage other parts of the curriculum easily.
A learning disability is lifelong. It cannot be 'cured' or 'treated' but people with a learning disability can achieve a lot with the right support. They will have greater difficulty than their non-disabled peers in acquiring basic life skills and may be dependent on others to a greater or lesser extent according to their needs. They are likely to need specialist educational input but this is often possible within mainstream school settings.
are many different causes of learning disability, some unknown. It's a lifelong
condition that starts at birth or shortly afterwards and limits intellectual
capacity. It may be caused by inherited factors such as Fragile X syndrome or
may be due to an injury during birth. Sometimes the supply of blood and
therefore oxygen to a baby's brain becomes restricted during birth and affects
the brain. Also, an illness such as meningitis or an accident may cause damage
to the brain.
Learning disability may occur in isolation, together with other sensory or physical impairment or as part of a recognisable genetic syndrome such as Down's Syndrome. A genetic condition occurs as a result of a defect of certain genes or chromosomes and is not necessarily inherited.
According to the Government White Paper on people with Learning Disability, the total number of people with a learning disability in the UK is about 1.2 million, with no significant difference between numbers of men and women affected. People from all walks of life and ethnic background can be affected and, unless they have a condition such as Down's Syndrome with its characteristic facial features, it's not possible to tell from someone's appearance whether they have a learning disability.
The four key principles underpinning the White paper are:
Legal and civil rights:
People with learning disabilities have the right to a decent education, to
grow up, to vote, to marry, to have a family, to express opinions, with help
and support to do so where necessary.
The presumption should be of independence, rather than dependence, with
public services providing the support needed to maximise this.
3. Choice: Like other people, people with learning disabilities want a real say in where they live, what work they should do and who looks after them.
4. Inclusion: This means enabling people with learning disabilities to do those ordinary things, make use of mainstream services and be fully included in local communities.
The word Dyslexia or "Specific Learning Difficulties (SLD)" comes from the Greek meaning "difficulty with words or language". This is an inadequate definition because it can show itself in many ways such as difficulty in tying shoelaces, bad hand-writing, poor short-term memory (for example in learning mathematics tables), mispronunciation of words, reversing of letters (deg for beg) and sequencing (act instead of cat).
Some of the famous people from history who achieved their success despite being afflicted with dyslexia are Woodrow Wilson (President of the USA 1913-1921); Hans Christian Anderson (Danish author of 168 fairy stories, including such classics as The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid); Thomas Edison (the inventor of the electric light bulb and many other inventions); Leonardo da Vinci (another prolific inventor and artist, whose Mona Lisa is conceivably the best-known of all paintings); and Albert Einstein who developed his Theory of Relativity despite being unable to read until he was nine years old and failing a college entrance exam.
Central Auditory Processing Disorders (CAPDs) are often characterized by a child having difficulty understanding speech or instructions in the presence of normal hearing sensitivity. They usually are noticed when the child is in an atmosphere of sensory overload. Too much is happening around the child and so the child cannot "process" the same information that other children process. This also can occur when the "redundancy" of the auditory information is reduced: when speakers cannot be seen, when the normal frequency content of speech is reduced, or especially when an ear infection produces a mild and temporary hearing loss.
In 1998 a survey conducted by Jane Fitzgerald for joint publication by Values Into Action and the Centre for Policy on Ageing determined that the number of people with learning difficulties living into old age is increasing, but little is known about how older people with learning difficulties view their changing needs, or how services and others respond to their increasing age.
It was found that the provision of services for such people was subject to wide variation and a lack of clarity about who is responsible for providing the services. In some cases there was no real impetus to resettle older people with learning difficulties from long-stay institutions. Even where good practice was found, information was rarely shared with other providers. There was also a marked absence of respect for the future of older people with learning difficulties in terms of expectations and their potential for greater independence, as well as a lack of opportunity for them to develop networks with others of similar ages or interests. Many of such older people - generally over 65 years of age, would have preferred being cared for by contemporaries with similar interests to themselves.
Learning Difficulties cause very significant parental concern. They also trouble teachers who are concerned for the welfare of their students. The importance of correcting the problem is so great that there has been a proliferation of diagnostic and remedial treatment procedures.
These are invariably anecdotal, based on shaky hypotheses with no true scientific evidence of validity or efficacy. They are widely advertised and promoted. Hence teachers and parents become confused. They will pursue any avenue to assist their children and are frequently persuaded to spend large sums of money on useless "Visual training, spectacles or eye exercises."
Practitioners who stand to gain much from their implementation promote these therapies to preschools and primary schools.
Parents throughout the country are being pressured and coerced by schools to give psychiatric drugs to their children. Teachers, school psychologists, and administrators commonly make dire threats about their inability to teach children without medicating them. They sometimes suggest that only medication can stave off a bleak future of delinquency and occupational failure. They even call child protective services to investigate parents for child neglect and they sometimes testify against parents in court. Often the schools recommend particular physicians who favor the use of stimulant drugs to control behavior. These stimulant drugs include methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, and Metadate) or forms of amphetamine (Dexedrine and Adderall).
The Department of Health have commissioned BMRB Social Research to conduct a major survey of people with learning difficulties in England. Fieldwork for the survey will be completed in October 2004 and a report on the findings will be published in July 2005. The aims of the survey are:
- to establish from people with learning difficulties themselves what their whole lives are like including where they live and with whom, what they do during the day, and what their needs, wants and aspirations are.
- to describe current use of services by people with learning difficulties, as well as their views on the services, to help establish what are the gaps between what is currently provided for people with learning difficulties and what they would like.
"I believe we should inform our children of the nature of their problems because they must learn to survive with the problem for the rest of their lives. They are the ones who have to develop statagies [sic] around their problems. If this upsets teachers and schools then TOUGH. They should train their staff properly to educate the 10% of their classes with learning difficulties. Why should parents have to fight this problem on their own."
This is an extract from a somewhat bizarre, but very touching, website devoted to a family of mother, father and three children, all of whom have some form of learning disability. It is written with humour and intelligence . . . and an admixture of dyslexic errors. Here is the link to the page from which it was taken http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~dolfrog/wein.htm and a link to the Home Site is given below.
Here are links to some interesting and useful websites:
The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education website section on adults with learning difficulties or disabilities.
Health Magazine's website section on Children with specific relevance to learning disability, Down's Syndrome, Autism, and Dyslexia.
The Sutherland Society's web pages on cranial osteopathy for children with learning difficulties and special needs.
North Somerset's (UK) excellent description of services provided for people with learning difficulties.
A pretty exhaustive list of internet resources describing the dangers of the use of drugs for children with special needs. The link is from the Dr Breggin website which is linked to the quotation given earlier on this page.
A quirky but very interesting site that (in the words of its presenters) "has been designed to provide links for disabilities in general . . . and useful links to agencies who can assist those seeking adequate provision of special education needs in the UK education system. See also link to the Dolfrog quotation above.