Overview of learning disabilities
Ogonda, Grace Osodo.
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Terms and concepts abound in the field of special needs education to the extent that one condition may be known by different names and have different definitions depending on the orientation of the user/writer. Such a situation has been known to cause disharmony and confusion among professionals especially among the novices. In special needs education, the area that is affected more than any other is specific learning difficulties. This is one of the youngest branches of special needs education - dating to 1963, in the US from the efforts of Kirk and the concerned parents who coined the term Learning Disabilities (LD). In Britain, the term Specific Learning Difficulties was arrived at from the recommendations of the Warnock Report of 1978. In the medical field however, the condition is known to have been first described by James Hinshelwood - an ophthalmologist as early as 1917. The term dyslexia which is used in most areas emanated from the word blindness conception. Other medical practitioners, Strauss, Werner and Lehtinen – in 1930s came up with the term, Brain Injured, which soon came to be known as Strauss Syndrome or Neurologically Impaired Children; and later in the 1960s, Minimal Brain Dysfunction (MBD). From the discipline of Psychology and Psycholinguistics, the same group of persons has been described using terms such as Perceptually Impaired/disordered, or persons with perceptual disorders and hyperkinetic behaviour where Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders fall into (Wong, 2004; Mercer, 1987). On the basis of this array of confusing terms and concepts, it is not a wonder that confusion reigns in the area of specific learning disabilities. Similarly, disjointed service provision by various professionals has been noted subjecting the persons affected by the condition to untold suffering; where each group of professionals carry out their own intervention on the same learner but with no coordination. This module attempts to harmonize the various terms in the field of learning disabilities, zeroing down to the use of specific learning difficulties since it is user friendly and not derogatory in any way and because it can be applied in a wide spectrum of fields – especially in education, social and medical. At the same time, the module does not exclude the use of other user friendly terms such as dyslexia, asphyxia where necessary. The module also traces the historical development, the enactment of various laws and policies in the service provision and protection of rights of persons with specific learning disabilities. The various disciplines concerned with service provision to persons with specific learning difficulties are highlighted and need for an interdisciplinary approach to service provision and collaboration among these service providers is underscored. All these are meant to ensure the best practices among service providers including educators in the field.
- Faculty of Arts