How Advances in Understanding Learning Disabilities have Changed Education

Its true, if you’ve read any of the other articles in this section you would see that there is a positive advance in our knowledge and understanding of learning disabilities but with this seems to come along a generalizing of special needs.

Certain political parties are proposing and pushing forward a standard school format equipped to support everyone in the community, including people with advanced disabilities. Personally I think is a very bad idea. I work in a special needs college, specializing in young adults with visual or hearing impairments with added learning disabilities. Students in this college range from 17 to 25 and from a variety of independence levels ranging from those who will leave, get a job and need relatively little support from the community, to those who will always need 24hr care.

The college not only teaches every single student ways to become as independent as they can be, but also creates an atmosphere a little like university, where young people can meet and mix, and become socially aware within a peer group.

Many of the students have lived with there parents all there lives, mixed very little with people in similar positions and have very few social and personal skills. When they leave they have friends, sometimes partners, and a confidence that they can be excepted and a complete person.

Though maybe not completely politically correct, my favorite part of the college is that people in wheel chairs, with missing limbs, a twisted spine or no eyeballs can feel normal’ and part of a community. Many grow up comparing themselves to normal’ siblings and parents and feel like a lesser citizen. Some even where schooled in ordinary comprehensives where they were bullied and became depressed

Here there are peer groups and normal pressure, but they are just that, normal Where in a normal school or college can someone with down syndrome and a speech impediment become the most popular person in there class?

I believe by integrating all special needs into ordinary schools is like turning a blind eye to our new knowledge of learning disabilities, Yes there are situations where people in wheel chairs need not be cut out of a normal educational system because there legs don’t work, but what’s the point in including people who will never learn to read and write to a minimal standard into a special needs class? They will always be in the lowest set and at the bottom of the social ladder. This is how it already is in the US, where it is still socially acceptable to call people retarded’.
I find the idea rather half-baked and hypocritical as well, especially since there are still well versed and intelligent arguments for even teaching genders separately.

I don’t want to appear negative or unfair, all I want to do is point out that our growing knowledge appears to be allowing people to even more clearly categorize rather than support individuals where there needs are. I grew up in a school with people in wheel chairs and I think they were treated well and progressed brilliantly, as well as opening our eyes to disabilities, but I know for a fact that not all people would do well in that situation, in fact most of the students I work with wouldn’t cope at all.

We need to support specialist centers that create an environment specifically for special needs, and personally I believe main stream could take a look down that route too and create environments where all learning types can be looked after.