Learning difficulties

8th July 2005 at 01:00
CHILDREN IN DIFFICULTY: A GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING AND HELPING (Second Edition). By Julian Elliot and Maurice Place. Routledge Falmer. pound;19.99

Written for those who work with children in health, child care, social work and education, this updated guide exemplifies most that is good and not so good about a clinical approach to dealing with special needs.

The title sets the tone, focus and scope of what follows: this is about diagnosing a selection of problems encountered by children and adolescents, exploring causes, treatment options and likely outcomes.

For those looking for straightforward descriptions of terms such as ADHD, anorexia, bulimia, drug abuse, school refusal, oppositional disorder, dyspraxia, dyslexia or depression, these are covered, with literature cited to show what interventions appear to be most effective, and websites supplied for further information.

There is brief coverage of therapies - play, brief solution focused, cognitive, family, and behavioural techniques. The role of medication is explored in relation to issues such as hyperactivity and poor concentration.

What is missing from this text is the sense in which children's difficulties are also embedded in social, political and cultural contexts and which are pivotal in shaping how we perceive problem behaviour, how it is created and dealt with.

This is a good, though not comprehensive, source book of information, with limited critical commentary and a narrowness of vision that looks backward to the time when the accepted premise was that children's difficulties were located mostly within them.

Alec Webster

Professor of educational psychology, University of Bristol

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