V. Dion Haynes
Dear Mr. Haynes,
In your article about changes in the administration of special education in Washington (DC, US), entitled “Special-Ed Getting New Computer System, Staff” appearing 27 February 2008 on page B04,” you used the term “Learning Disabilities” as a generic reference for students with various other, legally recognized disabilities. Here is an extract (my underlining):
For years, city and school officials have criticized programs provided by the D.C. schools’ special education office, which serves 9,400 students with physical or learning disabilities. The school system spends about $137 million a year on private school tuition for about 2,400 children it cannot serve in the public schools.
Specific Learning Disabilities is a specific category of disability under US federal law (Public Law 108-446, 108th Congress), and it is expressly differentiated from mental retardation, emotional disturbance, and other disabilities. It is not a generic term and should not be used to refer to multiple categories of disabilities. Although it may seem trivial to some, this difference is important to many. Using the term “learning disabilities” as a generic obscures important differences in students and may even undermine efforts by parents and educators to seek services for students who have learning disabilities, emotional or behavioral disorders, intellectual disabilities, autism, and speech-language disorders (among others).
I hope that this note is helpful. Thank you for your reporting of the substantive content in your article (which I’ve covered elsewhere).
John Wills Lloyd, Ph.D.
Editor, LD Blog
Professor, University of Virginia
This is the lead from an editorial praising the movie, “Taare Zameen Par.” The movie is generating multiple entries in my Google news searches.
Eagle’s Eye: Every child is special
Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s directorial debut, Taare Zameen Par (TZP) focusing on the saga of a dyslexic child, possibly is one of the outstanding Hindi films produced in 2007.
Released 21 December worldwide, TZP vividly portrays the manner in which an eight-year-old boy, disinterested in studies, is humiliated and punished by all his teachers at school.
At his home, too, with utter disregard to the boy’s special talent for painting, his parents pack him off to a boarding school as a disciplinary measure. The boy faces virtually living hell and yet again fares badly in studies until an exceptional art teacher (played by Aamir) ‘discovers’ the hidden talents of the child.
Later in the editorial, the author trots out the usual list of famous individuals said to have had dyslexia and raises the currently pop ideas of Professor Julie Logan from the Cass Business School in London, which we’ve discussed before on LD Blog. Sigh.
Although I have serious problems with those lapses and the intellectually challenged idea expressed in the film and the editorial title (“every child is special”), I wonder what the movie’s like. Anyone seen it? I’d like to see it.
The original editorial ;
The earlier post about Professor Logan’s research;
The official Web site for the film.
After hearing Steve Inskeep of NPR’s Morning Edition perpetuate the myth that individuals with dyslexia suffer from reversals, I submitted the following comment via the NPR Web site.
Dear Mr. Inskeep,
I was sorry to learn that you have the mistaken idea that the Learning Disability called dyslexia is characterized by “seeing things backwards.” I was even sorrier to hear you communicate this misinformation during an interview about dyslexia and entrepreneurship on 26 December.
Even though it persists among people who have not examined the research about it, the idea of reversals has been shown to be false in multiple scientific studies. To be sure, individuals with dyslexia make more reversal errors (read “was” as “saw”; confuse b and d), but that is simply because they make more errors overall; the ratio of reversal errors to total errors is the same among individuals with and without dyslexia.
I hope you can correct the misinformation that you passed along to to the large listenship of Morning Edition.
John Wills Lloyd, Ph.D.
Division for Learning Disabilities
For those who didn’t know or have forgotten, this is not the first time I’ve fretted about the accuracy of NPR’s coverage. For previous posts on this subject, see here (and see an earlier post about NPR’s coverage of Mel Levine).
Over on EBDBlog I posted an entry about a story recounting the use of theater to help children with Autism prepare for religious ceremonies. The reporter, James Ricci, has the following paragraph that serves as one of the indicators of the children’s success.
Over time, the initial goal of trying to “get him into our world” for 30 seconds of a two-hour period expanded to the point where, at 13 1/2 , he attends a full day of middle school mainstream classes, augmented by two classes for the learning disabled.
Of course, one of the things that caught my attention about the article was this confusion of Autism and Learning Disabilities. It’s an old hobby-horse I ride, I know, but it’s a never-ending concern. Check the “not LD” category to see other instances of this confusion.
Link to Mr. Ricci’s story.
On the morning drive show for Richmond (VA, US) radio station WRVA, listeners were saddled with the burden of listening to me miss chances to restate the “Not Lazy and Dumb” message. Thanks to Jimmy Barrett, the morning host for WRVA, and his staff, I was invited to comment on whether dyslexia was a “fig leaf” for “stupid” in an interview about Professor Julian Elliott’s recent comments pushing that message.
Continue reading ‘I missed oppotunities’
Despite the fact that I’ve plied this theme frequently, I found this humorous:
I realized I was dyslexic when I went to a toga party dressed as a goat.
Here’s another case of the misuse of “Learning Disability.” In a story about an Ohio (US) organization eliminating “mental retardation” from its name, Holly Zachariah of the Columbus (OH, US) Dispatch reported on “MRDD considers name change: ‘Mental retardation’ degrading, hurtful slang, some say.” Ohio’s Association of County Boards of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities is likely to follow a national movement in changing to a name that only refers to Developmental Disabilities.
Continue reading ‘MR not LD’
Writing in the Missoula (MT, US) Missoulian on 8 January 2007, Rob Granger provided a feature story about dyslexia that provided a reasonably sensible account of the condition. Despite a couple of bumps, Mr. Granger got a lot right.
Continue reading ‘Montana dyslexia’
Emma, who blogs as “WheelchairPrincess,” weighed in on the hot topic about the child named Ashley whose parents elected to have growth attenuation treatments to keep her (Ashley) physically undeveloped. Like other entries on WheelchairPrincess, this particular entry is a thoughtful and personal observation on the issues involved in the Ashley story. But, it includes a choice of words that perpetuates the idea that Learning Disabilities is a generic term, not the specific disability identified in US (and other countries’) laws. WheelchairPrincess wrote, “The short version is that Ashley X is 9 years old and has profound physical and learning disabilities.”
Continue reading ‘Another not-LD’
Writing in the San Luis Obispo (CA, US) Tribune, Mary Ross used Learning Disabilities to make a political point. She gave a definition of LD that was either her own or drawn from an uncited source, used it to make a veiled reference to US president, George W. Bush, and then expressed her hope that the then newly elected US Congress will take control of government. Regardless of whether one agrees with Ms. Ross’ ppolitical statement, if one’s concerned about Learning Disabilities, it’s important to examine her description of LD.
Continue reading ‘Another misrepresentation’