More than five percent of American adults suffer from ADHD, and those diagnosed typically work 22 fewer days than unafflicted counterparts, demonstrating vividly that disabilities extend far beyond the classroom to have large–scale economic impact on our society. Disabilities Affecting Learning, one of the Introducing Issues with Opposing Viewpoints series, serves as an entry into a discussion of invisible disabilities by presenting the most common points of conflict and supplying additional links to a range of accessible print and electronic resources. By providing divergent opinions side–by–side, this format illustrates the gamut of thought and feeling related to any controversial issue, which can be difficult for students to perceive in isolation. Each passage is introduced with a pithy editorial paragraph, and each provides straightforward questions to guide students’ reading in determining bias. The text itself is chunked in short paragraphs, which are displayed in a large font size. Each section relies on informational graphs, images, and other non–textual information to convey and extend meaning. There are organizational resources and bibliographies of books and periodicals on related issues, and the text is well–indexed.
The book is introduced with historical evidence of biological interference with learning, including tracing the roots of much of today’s multisensory and kinesthetic pedagogical techniques and strategies for confronting learning differences.The first third of Disabilities Affecting Learning focuses on arguments about the prevalence and the severity of three of today’s most common and controversial childhood diagnoses: dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism spectrum disorders.
The presentation of dyslexia is introduced by speculation about the genetically–influenced nature of phonological deficits, acknowledging that conventional classroom environments often fail to provide resources for successfully overcoming dyslexia. An alternate viewpoint counters that as a condition, dyslexia is not particularly well–defined and should be limited as a designation to the small number of children who will need support beyond the classroom. The cost of management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) through pharmaceutical means is contrasted with the limited educational and occupational attainment typical of untreated individuals suffering with that issue. The economic sense of controlling ADHD with ongoing medication is countered by criticism that pharmacological management of the disorder amounts to drugging unruly children for ease of managing what is essentially age–appropriate behavior. Another series of passages looks at the rates of diagnosis of autism, speculating about the intersection of cultural acceptability and spikes in incidence of disease.
The second third of the work attempts to conceptualize the effects that ADHD and other disorders have on the individual learner throughout his lifespan. ADHD in particular has been established to contribute to behavioral issues ranging from dropping out of school to substance abuse and increased propensity for risk–taking, which degrades overall quality of life. Possible impact of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder on occupational choice and function and its long term effects on establishing and sustaining relationships with family and peers is also explored. One chilling statistic describes an increased risk for abuse; for example, as many as ninety percent of individuals with developmental disabilities will experience some sort of sexual violence at some point. Another passage looks at the organic brain differences observed in autistic individuals, including changes in the amygdala typically linked to social fear. The final segment of the book looks at the ripple effects of disabilities on the educational system as a whole, including the dubious ability of special education services to help students improve their learning attainment. One passage is essentially a first–person account recalling the unanticipated results following "labeling" a student as recipient of "special education" services. Given the overall cost of that support and the small proportion of the student population it serves and what is demonstrated to be a considerable financial burden on public schools, examining whether it is the responsibility of schools to prepare students with disabilities to be functioning members of society can be a highly politically charged issue, but it is broached here. Dueling essays contrasting the efficacy of drugs like Ritalin in controlling ADHD versus claims by their opponents who say that these drugs are over–prescribed and potentially dangerous might prove controversial given the student population currently receiving those medications. It is refreshing to read one passage discussing the increased incidence of toxic chemicals in the environment as mirroring increases in abnormal development of the sort linked to disabilities. The focus on three of the most-studied, but least–understood disorders of our times will ensure this resource is well–consulted. Recommended for public libraries.