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NEUROSCIENCE & LEARNING DIFFICULTIES/DISABILITIES

SOME FAMOUS PEOPLE DIAGNOSED WITH LEARNING DIFFICULTIES *

Agatha Christie Albert EinstenDaniel RadcliffeDr Carol Greider
Jamie OliverJennifer Anistonjsml-john-lennon-150x150.jpgJohn LennonKiera Knightly
Prince HarryRichard BransonSteve JobsStevie Wonder

* Wikipedia - List of people diagnosed with dyslexia


INTRODUCTION

The following sections provide some background information and example of a survey/quiz-based experiment that is simple enough to be completed by primary school students.

The project requires no understanding of 'neuroscience' but some background information is provided here for teachers/students who wish to find out more (see below).

The 'neuromyth' problem:

Table 1. List of 15 Neuromyths with correctness of responses for each myth assertion

The OECD’s Brain and Learning project (2002) emphasized that (in 2012) many misconceptions about the brain persist among education professionals.1)

A survey containing 32 statements about the brain and its influence on learning included 15 'neuromyths'. Though these so-called 'neuromyths' are loosely based on scientific facts, they may have adverse effects on educational practice.

Results showed that on average, teachers believed 49% of the 'neuromyths', particularly myths related to commercialised educational programs.

Staying Current - Does it help?:

Of all teachers, 93% were interested in scientific knowledge about the brain and its influence on learning. Further, 90% of the teachers thought that this knowledge was very valuable for their teaching practice.

Teachers who read popular science magazines achieved higher scores on general knowledge questions, but more general knowledge also predicted an increased belief in “neuromyths”.

These findings suggest that even teachers who are enthusiastic about the possible application of neuroscience findings in the classroom find it difficult to distinguish pseudoscience from scientific facts.

Possessing greater general knowledge about the brain does not appear to protect teachers from believing in neuromyths.

This demonstrates the need for enhanced interdisciplinary communication to reduce such misunderstandings in the future and establish a successful collaboration between neuroscience and education. Sources: Learning Difficulties Australia (LDA) and Psychol., 18 October 2012

The changing focus from 'learning difficulties' to 'learning and support'

Comparing the implications of a shifting emphasis on “advantages” versus “disadvantages” resulting in changed the heading and subheading of the first draft newsletter.

The reason is that learning difficulties are no longer the primary focus.

  1. Assisting students with learning difficulties was the reason the resource centre was established.
  2. Assisting students experiencing issues with behaviour, well-being, resilience, anxiety, social skills etc are now as equally important. Our stats show that these topics are heavy hitters in searches and loans.

So we changed from 'learning difficulties', to 'learning assistance' and now 'additional learning and support needs'.

There are self-evident benefits in emphasising and promoting the advantages of having a learning disability (about flipping a 'disadvantage' around to become a positive), but I hope you can see now why we tried to broaden the heading to cover our bases.

The thinking was that an emphasis on 'learning difficulties' left out a large chunk of our core business (item 2 above): 'Assisting students experiencing issues with behaviour, well-being, resilience, anxiety, social skills'.

This is a revised draft of the initial mail-out, designed to more explicitly align with the additional learning and support needs identified in item 2 (above)


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RECENT LEARNING DISABILITY RESEARCH FINDINGS - DYSLEXIA

Dyslexia is a recognised learning disability that inhibits the learning process in spelling, reading and/or writing.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines dyslexia as “a brain-based type of learning disability. No matter how you label it, a 2010 Roper Poll showed that four out five Americans associate dyslexia with mental retardation 2). In a recent international study, more than ninety five percent of people perceived Dyslexia to be 'a disability'.

The social and emotional difficulties of dyslexia: “are part or a manifestation of the same disorder as is responsible for academic failure.” (Bruck, 1986 p. 362 3)

Second, Bruck advises that the dyslexic child undergoes moments of great stress, which creates difficulties with emotional and social adjustments because dyslexia puts the child at odds with his environment (Bruck, 1986). Their emotional problems begin to develop when early reading instruction does not match their learning style. Reading experts believe that dyslexia embodies a combination of reading problems. These authorities cite problems such as inadequate reading instruction, psychic stress, emotional immaturity, impaired hearing and poor vision (Fletcher, Fuchs & Barnes, 2007). (Bruck, 1986 p. 362 4)

A strong correlation between dyslexia and entrepreneurship has long been a subject of scientific inquiry. In 2004, 20 percent of UK entrepreneurs polled said they were dyslexic, while managers “reflected the UK national dyslexia incidence level of 4 percent.” In the U.S., however, the results were even more persuasive: the same researchers behind the U.K. study found that more than 35 percent of American entrepreneurs surveyed identified themselves as dyslexic. Other studies have shown that more than 40% of surveyed self-made millionaires identified themselves as dyslexic.

“The study also concluded that dyslexics were more likely than non-dyslexics to delegate authority and to excel in oral communication and problem solving and were twice as likely to own two or more businesses,” according to The New York Times, which first reported the earlier (2007) research.

Though graduates are proven more likely to be hired than someone without higher education, many on the world's most successful companies are run or were started by education dropouts.

A study 5) of the top 100 US corporations found that only just over half of those CEOs attained a recognised education qualification at tertiary level:

  • Fourteen (percent) of the CEOs had law degrees.
  • Sixteen (percent) held a Batchelor (BA) or similar graduate level qualification.
  • Thirty three (percent) of CEOs held an MBA, which was the most common graduate degree among the executives.
  • More than thirty (percent) of the CEOs did not attain any kind of formal tertiary education qualification. This proportion is in fact understated as a significant number of these 'dropout' CEOs appear in other categories above as a result of having been awarded 'honorary' degrees following their later commercial success.

In a study of the world's most highly successful entrepreneurs, it turns out a disproportionate number have dyslexia. In the US, 35 percent of the entrepreneurs studied had dyslexia.

Take this resume. This guy's parents give him up for adoption. He never finishes college. He job-hops quite a bit, goes on a sojourn to India for a year, and to top it off, he has dyslexia. Would you hire this guy? His name is Steve Jobs. 6)

Entrepreneurs are not the only ones who have been diagnosed as having learning disabilities at school:

School work did not go well for young Albert. His poor facility with arithmetic, his lack of special ability in any other academic subject, and his great difficulty with foreign language led his teacher to predict that “nothing good” would come of the boy (Sullivan 1972). Nevertheless, Einstein worked carefully and diligently and persevered in doing his arithmetic homework, even though he often came up with the wrong answers. 7)

Recent Australian research has highlighted how “The special needs of an unknown number of children may be overlooked because they are simply presumed to be lazy.” 8)

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