By Karen Mardahl, Nordic Chapter
With a special education teacher for a mother, the topic of "learning disabilities" has always held my interest. She taught me that "we all just learn in different ways" and that her students were "exceptional. " But what happens in our education systems?
I view my son's early school years in the 90s as a nightmare. I asked if my son could submit homework done on the computer due to his awful handwriting - weren't his ideas the key issue? - and "NO!" was the reply.
School developed into a struggle with my son to convince him he was OK and had valuable ideas and with the teachers to convince them that children have different needs that should be respected. In the end, bullying - by educators! - turned an otherwise very bright child into an underachiever who finally began to flourish around age 15 or 16. Denied, or only allowed restricted, access to usable educational information, are kids being "punished" for being different? .
If we just learn in different ways, perhaps it is our attitudes that are holding us back. If we cannot provide material in all necessary formats to cover the needs of all learning disabilities, learning becomes exclusive, not inclusive. Should a child's potential be denied just because we are not applying the necessary time, energy, and technology?
There are such exciting challenges to our technical communication abilities to make things accessible and usable so that others can prove their capabilities. The technology is there
What if kids with disabilities were provided with textbooks in a customizable online help format where they could add and save their comments on relevant pages for their own future use? Or add their comments to a repository on the Internet, where other children and educators could benefit from them? Wow! Talk about empowerment!
Once the information is available and truly usable, the kids - or anyone
- can get on with the process of learning, instead of trying to get the
right to learn! With our multi-faceted expertise as technical communicators,
we have a fantastic potential to make educational material accessible
and eradicate prejudicial treatment due to "differences." Are
we ready to invest the time and energy to do this? Just think if materials
were adjusted to the learning methods and needs of students, not vice-versa!
Perhaps then all children would have a chance to show their capabilities.