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learning difficulties

(8 Posts)
expatmaggie Mon 12-Sep-11 18:23:04

I live in Germany and English changes sometimes and I realise that I don't know what a person with learning difficulties has or is. I heard on Radio 4 today such a person but she seemed to be able to hold her own in a conversation. Can anybody out there fill me in?

absentgrana Mon 12-Sep-11 18:31:36

Learning difficulties is a politically correct and very unhelpful term for a gamut of problems and health issues. It is used to cover any condition that makes learning difficult – from dyslexia to severe brain damage. It was introduced into the language with good intentions at a time when words such as spastic and phrases such as educationally subnormal had become terms of common abuse and were causing distress to families and individuals where "learning difficulties" were an issue. Now that it is applied willy nilly, it has become pretty much meaningless. There is a tendency among our politicians to rename (rebrand?) problems and difficulties with an emollient name and then reckon that has solved the problem for society and for the sufferers without bothering to do anything practical to help.

expatmaggie Mon 12-Sep-11 18:45:24

Absentgrana- what an excellent explanation. Thankyou. I suspected as much and it is interesting that this is a political issue. The young lady on Radio 4 was using quite long words and was chairperson on some committee. On the other hand she was being bullied by neighbours and I was quite shocked about that.

Elegran Mon 12-Sep-11 18:49:06

This is another of those areas where the expression used changes every so often, usually when the rabble cottons on to it and starts using it as a term of abuse.

As it implies, it refers to someone who finds it difficult to learn. That does not mean, as you heard, that they cannot hold their own in a conversation, or look after themselves or earn a living. They would probably find a problem with complicated academic concepts though.

There have always been words for the less intellectual of us, some of them unkind. Some of the kinder terms have become used less kindly over the years.

Take the word "silly". In Old English "saelig" meant holy. God was looking out for those who were not good at looking out for themselves, so they were "holy". Even Wordsworth has a line about how the clergy are not doing their job for their flock and "the silly sheep look on and are not fed" Gradually it became an insult.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, learned physicians tried to classify levels of intelligence, and reasons for lack of it, with terms like "moron", and "cretin" which had specific scientific meanings, but deteriorated into insults.

It can be hard work keeping up with the latest way of not offending people.

lucid Tue 13-Sep-11 11:39:08

One of my sisters has 'learning difficulties' except when we were growing up she was 'mentally handicapped'....now not PC! She is married and lives with her DH (who also has 'learning difficulties) in sheltered accommodation and lives her life her way. She doesn't have a problem with learning at all and does have a lot of common sense. I hate the term as it doesn't help to explain anything! angry It does mean that my sister struggles to get the help that she needs to lead an independent life, 'learning difficulties' are not deemed to be important when it comes to cut backs on resources.angry x 2

Elegran Tue 13-Sep-11 11:45:54

Labels, labels, labels.

Get the right one and they fall over themselves to help. Get the wrong one and you are on your own.

greenmossgiel Tue 13-Sep-11 13:30:16

When I worked in a care establishment, the people who lived there were called 'residents'. Suddenly the 'powers that be' decided that this was the wrong description for these people and they then became 'service users'. Some of them became worried because they felt that they may be treated differently because their description was different. Sometimes things in the care field became so PC that you felt you were disappearing up your own backside!

expatmaggie Tue 13-Sep-11 22:24:42

Perhaps we always had the need to label people. I remember being quite shocked when I read on a copy of the 1870 census that letters were used to describe disabilities. L for Lunatic, D for deaf or deaf and dumb, B for blind and I for Idiot. I never saw this in later copies of the census.

On the other hand I grew up in war time Sheffield living opposite a young man -perhaps brain damaged at birth- who lived amongst us, rode a bike a bit but couldn't speak but used to shout a lot. We neighbours tolerated him and I can't ever remember him being called cruel names but we children did tease him sometimes.

Germany has its own problems regarding classifying people with disabilities or leaning difficulties, but it is always a community problem not a national problem, which means less classification.
The Nazi treatment of such groups was horrific and germans today have to be careful. Even today in the town where I live there are institutionalised women who were put away as children. They are old now but unable to live a normal life. They are cared for in a lovely home with enough carers. They are called residents.