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NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL BASES OF EDUCATIONAL DISABILITIES Implications for Diagnosis and Remediation Expert Paper Submitted to the United Nations Disability Unit, Vienna February, 1990 Robert Zenhausern, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology St. Johns University Jamaica, NY 11439 USA INTRODUCTION The paragraphs below are in the form of a satire based on the essay by Jonathan Swift entitled "A Modest Proposal" in which he presented a solution to the "Irish Problem". The parallel here is Learning Disability and the inflexible ways these children are taught. It is the objective of this paper to show that the problem of the learning disenfranchised is one that can be solved by increasing the flexibility with which we teach. Another Modest Proposal: A Swift Response to an Old Problem The purpose of this essay is to examine the possibility that we are systematically doing a disservice to a large segment of the school population. Students who have auditory or visual impairments have been allowed to use artificial means, such as glasses or hearing aids, to correct their deficits. Indeed, it is considered praiseworthy to identify such problems early and then use the services of professionals who prescribe optical or electronic devices which alleviate the deficiencies. The consequences of such actions, however, have not been considered fully. Such children may become lazy and make no attempt to overcome their problems. What motivation will they have to strengthen their perceptual weaknesses when such devices make it unnecessary for them to do so? What will such people do if, for whatever reason, such devices are not available? It is the contention of this paper that artificial devices are crutches which interfere with the complete development of the child. As such, they should be eliminated. Some might argue (and not without a modicum of validity) that by eliminating those "support systems," such children may not progress beyond the elementary rudiments of learning. That, however, should be secondary to the point that we are not dealing directly with a serious problem. The fact that our present state of knowledge does not allow us to correct such deficiencies should not dissuade us from this course of action. Eventually specific techniques will be developed to meet the problems of poor eyesight and hearing in much the same way that techniques were developed to alleviate reading and mathematical difficulties -- and probably with as
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much success. There is a minor problem in the fact that many of the authority figures in the child's environment use those same artificial devices and thus do not serve as good role models. Aside from the educational wisdom of this proposal, it has the added advantage of eliminating the possibility of charges of discrimination. Consider, for example, if someone raised the point that a deficit in vision or hearing might be compared to a deficit in arithmetic computation. They might argue that if vision can be corrected by glasses why can a calculation deficit not be corrected by the use of a calculator? It is difficult to counter these arguments since the two deficits have so
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This note was uploaded on 09/26/2011 for the course PSYCHOLOGY 110 taught by Professor Kannan during the Spring '11 term at Anna University.

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