The Oxford Languages Dictionary (Oxford Languages, 2023) defines a learning disability as “a disability that affects the acquisition of knowledge and skills, in particular, a neurodevelopmental condition affecting intellectual processes, educational attainment, and the acquisition of skills needed for independent living and social functioning”. I dived deep into this definition in search for terms “crazy” or “mad” or “abnormal”. In my experience as a striving inclusive educator, I have dealt with parents who define learning disabilities this way.
Parents were invited to schools to discuss innovative approaches to support their children with learning disabilities. In some cases, our school guidance and support team members have had to suggest special schools, which can be a sensitive topic for some parents: “My daughter is not mentally ill!”, “Are you suggesting that my son has a mental disorder?” and occasionally, even, “Perhaps you are the one who is not all right upstairs”. It is challenging. One of the biggest myths I have encountered is the automatic assumption that individuals with learning disabilities are inherently abnormal. Perhaps we could even use the word “crazy”. Writing these expressions in English does not even begin to sufficiently convey the gravity of the situation, as this myth, unfortunately, persists most prominently within black communities. As recently as 2022, I have encountered this issue. Sepedi teachers may relate:” Ngwana’ka ga a gafe nna!”; perhaps Zulu teachers too: “Kuhlanya wena!” and, maybe Tsonga ones as well: “Leswi swa penga. Ku tikeriwa hi ku dyondza? Mawaku nchumu wolowo!”.
Nevertheless, this article does not pertain to the previous paragraph. So let us move our focus towards the topic of awareness. Individuals with learning disabilities experience developmental issues that impact their ability to process information and acquire skills in specific areas, including reading, writing, Math, or language usage. There is nothing related to craziness about this, as these disabilities are irrelevant to an individual’s mental state.
It is crucial to educate parents, and everyone involved in any child’s education, about the significant fact that learning disabilities do not reflect a child’s intelligence or ability to think. Despite having learning disabilities, all children can still demonstrate the same intelligence and potential as their peers, unaffected by specific learning difficulties. Some learners need extra attention concerning methods of instruction, accommodations, or support to enhance their learning experience. Most teachers are constantly learning and willing to go the extra mile to provide these resources. These teachers also need the assistance of the learners and their parents/guardians to ensure their success in managing different learning difficulties.
Misconceptions and incorrect perceptions regarding learning disabilities can be discouraging to learners who are living with them as they may begin to deem themselves in the same negative light and struggle even more with their studies, and this only results in stigmatization, stagnation, poor results, school dropouts, exhausted teachers and, and, and. Eliminating myths such as the one discussed here and promoting a more inclusive and supportive environment for individuals with learning disabilities is crucial and will help develop our learning institutions. This week and beyond, may we change our attitudes rooted in misinformation and misunderstandings, and may we strive to educate ourselves fully and in detail about learning disabilities and even embrace them. We can help our learners and children to navigate their learning disabilities better and become better. Let us all do our part to bust all sorts of myths about living with a learning disability!
ManCap Charity Organisation. (2023). Learning Disability Week 2023. 19 June 2023. https://www.mencap.org.uk/easyread/learningdisabilityweek2023#:~:text=This%20ye ar%20we%20want%20people,about%20something%20is%20not%20true [accessed, 19 June 2023].
Oxford Languages. (2023). What is a Learning Disability? https://www.google.com/search?q=what+is+a+learning+disability&rlz=1C1GCEA_en ZA1042ZA1042&sxsrf=APwXEddlGfp9WF4NEadUpzvCQ352oGY8Jg%3A16871765
91867&ei [accessed, 19 June 2023].
𝗔𝘂𝘁𝗵𝗼𝗿: 𝗔𝗻𝗶𝗸𝗸𝗶𝗲 𝗠𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗮𝗺𝗲𝗹𝗮
𝗟𝗲𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲𝗿: 𝗕𝗘𝗱 𝗜𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗲𝗱𝗶𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗣𝗵𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝗧𝗲𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴