While searching a popular online photo library for images to use on the new website, terms like “school”, “education”, and “student” turned up many attractive, successful looking kids from which to choose. Then we searched “learning disability”. Up popped image after image of wheelchair-bound kids, a total disconnect with the reality of LD.
The fact is, kids with learning differences typically have average to above average intelligence, and simply process information differently. Maybe it is the use of the term “disability”, but one thing is clear: confusion about LD persists.
This is consistent with some troubling national trends. Last month, the Roper Organization released a national poll on how Americans view learning differences.
While 8 out of 10 Americans agreed that children with LD are “just as smart as you and me”, a disturbing number were sadly misinformed, associating learning differences with laziness, a poor home environment, and other negative factors.
Even my work with families and schools in the Tri-State area occasionally turns up bias, and unnecessary obstacles: from the client with processing speed issues, whose teacher derisively refers to his need for extra time, to the College Board and the ACT, who routinely turn down requests for accommodations. At the very least, you would expect educators and school administrators to know that people learn in different ways, wouldn’t you?
How is it that in 2010, these myths and misperceptions exist?
Some day, all children with LD will have their struggles identified early, will routinely get the help they need, and the need for advocacy will be a thing of the past. For now, I guess it just means we have much more work to do.
By the way, which kid pictured above has a learning disability? For all we know, they all do. -M.H.