Learning Disabilities in the Adult Years: Understanding Dyslexia,
Intervention, and Research
Joan Shapiro and Rebecca Rich
Oxford University Press,
216 pp. $25.00.
Joan Baum, Ph.D.
programs and funding for learning disabilities (LD) and special
education are no news, the focus of this study and resource handbook
by two Columbia University Teachers College specialists is the
reported 2-3 percent of college freshmen who make up the fastest
growing population of disabled university students (out of an
adult population, ages 20-60, of 3-10 percent). The book’s six
appendices alone, which include a list of current court cases,
professional organizations and a glossary of relevant terms, recommend
it to the lay person as well as to professionals.
Up until recently the field of LD has been dominated by research
into children; but LD adults are not simply LD children grown
up. At different stages of life, different frustrations set in—the
inability to hold a job, have a satisfying social life, complete
school. The authors want the learning disabled themselves to read
about the latest theories about cause, diagnostic procedures,
clinical examples and treatments. They particularly want to focus
on dyslexia, “often discussed but little understood.” The latest
research, for example, supports the fact that “learning disabilities
run in families” and reflect a central nervous system dysfunction
which interferes with the processing of information on all levels.
Approximately 80 percent of LD individuals have problems with
reading and writing, but research into adults has shown the need
for more attention to social skills acquisition, including career
awareness, independent living and vocational training.
Key to overcoming obstacles presented by LD is an “individual’s
ability and willingness to set goals and use strategies to control
his or her life,” and key to this is acceptance of “responsibility
for both accomplishments and setbacks.” Given all that has developed
in the field since 1960, when LD first came to public attention,
the authors are gladdened by the growth of services in schools
and on the job and about the number of skills and strategies available
to those who want to learn on their own.
This is a timely book, given the changes being proposed for special
education. In calling for more collaborative efforts among various
agencies and for more federal funding, the authors have made their
case with this book.
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