Friday, October 29, 2010

More than half of Americans think learning disabilities are caused by home environment

From The Washington Post education blog:

A survey commissioned by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation of New Haven exposes poor understanding among many Americans of what causes learning disabilities.

Fifty-five percent of parents and 55 percent of the general public surveyed agreed that learning disabilities are "often caused by the home environment children are raised in." About 51 percent of those surveyed agreed that "sometimes learning disabilities are really just the result of laziness."

I think we education writers, particularly me, need to take the blame for much of the ignorance. We rarely write about learning disabilities. The subject is complicated. The research is hard to understand. There are no sure cures, and few success stories, which makes editors unhappy.

There are plenty of political and legal battles over special education programs for children with learning disabilities, but they are usually about money, not about the best way to help students. When we do write about disabilities, we often get mail from grateful families. But that doesn't seem to inspire more effort.

The Tremaine Foundation poll has some rays of hope. The portion of respondents who think some disabled kids are just lazy has declined from 57 to 51 percent since 2004. That isn't much, but it's better than nothing.