Disabilities need more thought

31st October 2008 at 00:00

A report published by the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, What about us?, should give policy makers and service providers food for thought. It notes that the inclusion of students with special needs in mainstream settings has gained momentum over the past quarter-century, and that there is encouraging research evidence of their improved academic attainment.

However, the report points to serious concerns about the emotional well-being of such students, especially outwith the classroom. They wanted to feel secure in designated "safe places" with support and supervised activities, especially in the stressful times between lessons. Students were seeking refuge within their mainstream settings.

Other issues relating to inclusion have been highlighted in the recently-published book, Learning Disability and Social Inclusion by Gillian MacIntyre, which surveys the implementation of social inclusion policies in Scotland. MacIntyre examined the extent to which people with learning disabilities benefit from social inclusion.

Her book notes that young people classified as having a learning disability are less likely to leave school with qualifications that have any market value. The majority tended to go into further education, where they were channelled onto special needs courses. MacIntyre also points to evidence showing that young people with learning disabilities are being marginalised - socially excluded - within mainstream colleges.

Despite significant progress, MacIntyre recommends that policymakers and service providers need to move to a position where a far wider and more imaginative range of educational and social services for young people with learning disabilities are offered, which are not based on unrealistic and unattainable objectives.

Robin Jackson, Bieldside, Aberdeen.

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