Learning from those with learning disabilities

I know that Learning Disability Week, a week of national campaigning and awareness raising run by Mencap, isn’t until August, but I was so moved by a case study I have just completed for College Park School, Westminster, that I wanted to flag it up a little early.

The NHS defines Learning Disability as ‘the way a person learns new things in any area of life, not just at school’. It goes on to detail how learning disability affects the way people understand information and how they communicate, so they may have difficulty coping independently or learning new skills. Mencap’s Lesley Campbell says that if a child has a learning disability, in practical terms this means that it is ‘harder for [them] to learn, understand and communicate than it is for other children’.

Understanding that its pupils are not the same as their mainstream peers, College Park School does not aim for the same outcomes; the school’s philosophy is “Preparation for Life”. It prepares pupils for life beyond school, providing them with opportunities for learning skills and knowledge; ultimately preparing them for their place in the adult world. I found this hugely inspiring as I believe that all schools, SEN and mainstream alike, should prepare students for the big, bad world… for life!

Ricardo Clarke, a teacher at the school, explained how important it is for his students to be able to identify when someone is happy, sad or angry, or to learn how to cross the road safely, travel on a bus or train, use the shops and find local facilities, as these skills often don’t come naturally to children with learning disabilities. However, I think that all schools should stress the importance of these skills to their students. I know that as a young child without a learning disability, I would have still benefitted hugely from such life lessons.


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