This little book is a compact digest about special needs for anyone who knows literally nothing about it.
It will be useful for students who are just starting a teacher education course, or for those beginning to work as learning support assistants.
It gives the basic details clearly, with no fancy jargon. There are plenty of case studies, and information about relevant legislation is given in bullet points. What the Education Reform Act has to say about special needs is well summarised in just 22 lines.
It is simple without being patronising, though there are dangers in simplicity. The case studies are, for example, of "A boy with MLD" or "A girl with PMLD", as though these descriptors are as unproblematic as "a boy with measles".
Unfortunately, the accom-panying commentary does not explicate much further. It says that learning difficulties have multiple causes and these may combine a "medical origin I sensory impairment, emotional and behavioural problems or problems of a more social nature". Nothing to do with inappropriate curriculum or inadequate resources then?
The section on dyslexia says that: "There are numerous books on dyslexia. It is therefore rather surprising to know that some LEAs do not acknowledge the condition."
Well, there have been numerous books written on teddy bears, Father Christmas and little pink pussycats, but this does not mean that LEAs have to acknowledge their existence. If all our judgments concerning a subject's verisimilitude were based on a count of the published books available we should be living in a very strange universe.
Although this book's heart is in the right place, it tends to over-simplify a complex and rapidly changing field.
Gary Thomas is professor and reader in education at the University of the West of England, Bristol