Experience of People Living With Learning Disabilities and Mental Health Issues

Learning Disabilities

by Shamsul
Learning Disabilities and Mental Health Issues
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Experience of People Living With Learning Disabilities and Mental Health Issues



Learning Disabilities can be defined as significant difficulties that a child presents during school education corresponding to his age. The study of these disorders can be approached from different points of view that constitute, in fact, conceptual models of their origin –ethiopathogenesis– and specific models of corrective intervention (Boardman, Bernal and Hollins, 2014). We can group these models into cognitive, neuropsychological, psychopathological and social. We know that people with learning disabilities (LDs) are two to three times more likely to have mental health problems. When one has difficulty “showing what you know” one can expect to see an increase in the level of stress associated with school and the dropout rate. People with LDs are more likely to experience anxiety or depression and to have thoughts of suicide (Deb, Thomas and Bright, 2001).

If we consider the continuum of mental health-related to learning disabilities, we could say that the bulk of people with learning incapacities experience levels of stress and distress in the “yellow zone”, since school contexts and social are a constant source of strain. However, a number of learners may also experience mental health problems that interfere with their day-to-day functioning and bring them into the “red zone”. For these students with learning disabilities and mental health issues (MSDs) and their families, intervention may be necessary to help them participate actively in school, maintain peer relationships, and manage their intense behaviors and emotions (Bouras and Holt, 2003).


Supporting People with Learning Disabilities

There is a long history of recognition that there exist inequalities in the way in which people with learning disabilities are provided support by social and health services. Valuing People in the year 2001 emphasizes the need to determine how support is provided to people for leading a happy and content life with similar choices and rights that are given to other citizens. Both mainstream services and specialists should be delivering person-centered support which should have a higher standard (Cooper et al., 2007).

The researcher – Ted who is a pseudonym himself has gone through several experiences in his life. He had shared accommodation with other people who also had learning disabilities. Ted was initially diagnosed and prescribed treatment for schizophrenia and as such he was treated for this mental health issue as he indicated suicidal tendencies as well as mood swings related to paranoia. Within many community settings, the researcher himself has abused both verbally and physically to his care staff and fellow residents back home.

The methodology used for the recruitment of Ted was that of a purposive sampling approach. The criteria included adults over 18 years of age, residing in the community, having been diagnosed with learning disabilities, having been treated for mental health illnesses and having sufficient verbal skills which allow them to adequately communicate so as to convey information.



In the First National Congress on the Prevention of Learning Disabilities and Dyslexia (1993), the conceptualization of learning difficulties as a developmental disorder is questioned, and it is suggested that perhaps this conceptualization should be rethought toward the consideration of learning difficulties as a permanent deficiency based on the idea of ​​the persistence of AD throughout life and the presence of a neurobiological footprint in AD.

There is consensus in stating that the profile of adults is similar to that of children with AD, since the symptoms persist over time (Brown and Marshall. 2006), although their manifestations are different depending on the stage of development, and the Needs also vary based on age.

In any case, what must be taken into account is that the treatment must be structured taking into account the specific characteristics of the person who has learning difficulties. Of course, the work must be directed and supervised by a specialist in these types of difficulties. Not only will be important the type of exercise chosen but also the assessment of the attitude of the person with difficulties in their way of approaching the task that is proposed. In this sense, the role of the re-educator is fundamental since he is the one who observes, directs and models this attitude. For all this, a relationship and a bond are created between the student and the re-educator who, as in any type of therapy, plays a decisive role in the student’s recovery process (Gravell, 2012).


The Diagnostic Evaluation

A learning disorder, whatever the etiological factors involved, is inextricably linked to the overall development as well as the constitution of the child’s personality and character, as understood by the psychoanalytic conception; but we also take into account the social and family environment, both in their individual history and in the current situation (Hardy et al., 2007). For this reason, the diagnostic program necessarily includes:

The clinical assessment of the child’s personality. This evaluation allows a global appreciation of psychic functioning, considering both the cognitive aspects of language and psychomotor skills as well as the emotional aspects; In this way, a diagnosis can be established, either of a normal personality or of a possible type of psychopathological and developmental disorders.


The analysis of social and family factors, including the pedagogical situation

An in-depth study of the language and psychomotor skills is carried out if it is considered justified by the multidisciplinary team. The examination of organic factors (sensory, neurological, etc.) in collaboration with the pediatrician or various specialists, including the necessary complementary tests is important (Kerr, 2007).

Psychopedagogical Interventions and Specialized Pedagogy

Elsewhere we have seen the different general therapies that seem to be indicated according to the etiology of learning disorders described (Dagnan and Jahoda, 2006). As we have just seen, these treatments are very often combined with psychopedagogical support and specialized pedagogy. Let us remember that psychopedagogical interventions take different forms, such as individual treatments (Singleton et al., 2001) or interventions in institutions and specialized classes (Unison, 2006); but any psychopedagogical proposition has the sole purpose of sustaining the development process: to achieve this, the specialist relies on the non-deficit components of the subject’s functioning, in order to lead him to a “natural” compensation for the elements that are lacking in his developing. This work must be approached as a process of continuous promotion, that will favor the subject, a narcissistic and epistemophilic restoration: the restitution to the subject of his right to curiosity and to the personal structuring of the modes of categorization of reality constitutes psychodynamic support for their development and their capacity for self-training (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2007).

Specialized pedagogy develops its specialty to become more and more effective based on the reference model that emerges from the research of the last decade, especially that concerning the very young child. It is an interactive model: objects from the outside world, real and symbolic, acquire meaning for the child through the use that adults make of them in their interactions with them. The assimilations / accommodations of cognitive development are rooted in sociocultural tactics and allow the acquisition of competencies that concur in the construction of identity. In this way, the essential didactic orientations of specialized teaching can be detached (Mansell, 2007).


The problem of the primary prevention of learning disorders is that of the situations and conditions that are in their origin and that are, to a large extent, emotional disorders (Hemmings, 2008). We have pointed out, in particular, the scientific finding that represents a better understanding of the mechanisms that are at the base of the difficulties linked to social origin. Secondary prevention would gain a lot if the etymological etiological evaluation could be done earlier, overcoming the various forms of resistance in the sterile theoretical debates about the pedagogical, psychiatric or organic nature of the disorders, which delays the indication and acquisition of specific measures. In addition, we also have the development of new forms of symptomatic intervention –short psychotherapies, psychopedagogy – as a complement to longer-lasting psychotherapeutic disorders (Hall et al., 2006).


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