What Can (Learning) Disabilities Teach Us?

Everybody is (has) a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid (Albert Einstein)

Learning disabilities are a wide spectrum of various learning problems that a surprisingly high amount of individuals (2-20 % of the total population in Finland only) are affected by, including difficulties in e.g. one of the following: language/communication/speech, reading (dyslexia), mathematics (dyscalculia), writing (dysgraphia) caused by various disorders in the brain’s ability to receive and process information.

An individual with a certain learning disability may be classified as having dyslexia, or motor skills disorder, but also fall into one of the following categories: ADHD, ADD, Asperger syndrome, autism, Down syndrome among a number of other learning disabilities. In Finland, even especially gifted individuals (an estimated 2 % of total population) are regarded to belong to the group of individuals in need of special support in education, because these exceptionally intelligent individuals may face difficulties in adapting to “normal” learning conditions which, to them, offer no challenges.

As part of my studies in pedagogy, I recently paid a visit to Luovi Tampere Unit, a vocational college aimed at young students with various kinds of learning disabilities. Luovi (www.luovi.fi/en/) is a vocational college offering vocational education to young individuals with various kinds of learning disabilities in 20 different locations across Finland. All teachers are trained with focus upon teaching students with special needs, and teaching is naturally somewhat different from the various methods used in “normal” (vocational) educational institutes. My visit to Luovi widened my understanding about learning disabilities, and one of the things that astonished me especially was to learn that each year, Luovi welcomes at least one fully normal student who has been bullied at school and has no longer been capable of attending normal school due to bullying, shockingly enough.

Learning disabilities, and disabilities in general, can teach us much of value. To learn more about one learning disability, Asperger Syndrome, please watch the following YouTube video (See the world through her Asperger eyes: Wendy Lampen at TEDxDelft):

One short post is not enough to dig deep enough into the world of differences, or learning disabilities, but it may be enough to awaken further interest into learning more about these.

Learning disabilities, and differences between individuals can teach us much of value, including:

– Never judge a person by his/her exterior. Learn to know them, and to understand their journey.

– Our world is not black and white, but rather a rainbow filled with a wide spectrum of different kinds of individuals. It is important to be open to learning, to seeing, and tolerating differences.

– If everyone/everything were identical/similar, the world could not spin around. We need differences in every aspect of life/society.

– Differences can help us develop/evolve into seeing things from a wider/higher perspective.

– We do not have to understand everything that we sense, but rather be tolerant and understanding in our approaches.

– Bullying is always wrong. It can lead to severe consequences, not only for the individual being bullied, but for society in general. Bullying should not be tolerated, nor covered by anyone. Bullying is a fearful action.

– Life offers us many surprises. Be open to them.

– Minds are different. The fact that somebody functions/thinks different from us, does not signify that they are wrong.

Another example about a difference in learning, seen from an autism point of view:

The problem is not the person ́s disability, the problem is society’s view of the person’s abilities.

Thank you for reading, commenting, learning, and for being open to differences.  





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