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Do teachers know more about specific learning difficulties than general practitioners?

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In this article, Dr Amanda Kirby, medical director at the Dyscovery Centre in Cardiff, Rhys Davies, a researcher for the School of Education at the University of Wales, and Amy Bryant, a psychology student at Cardiff University, report on their investigations into teachers' and general practitioners' (GPs') knowledge of six specific learning difficulties. It was hypothesised that the knowledge of both groups would be similar. The recent development of a labelling culture has resulted in confusion over the terms and the actual difficulties encountered by the individual. The authors asked 105 teachers and 105 GPs to define six categories of learning difficulties (dyspraxia; developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD); attention deficit disorder (ADD); deficit in attention, motor control and perception (DAMP); Asperger's syndrome; and dyslexia) on a questionnaire.

The teachers gave significantly more correct definitions than the GPs. However, knowledge from both professional groups was limited, with correct responses only demonstrating a cursory awareness. There are implications for both groups of professionals. Teachers will not be able to recognise or accommodate the child with learning difficulties in class if their knowledge is limited. Similarly GPs will find it difficult to detect and appropriately refer children with learning difficulties. Finally, and most importantly, there are implications for the identification and support of the child, in both the short term and the long term, and associated psychological issues such as lowered self-esteem, depression and anxiety. Amanda Kirby, Rhys Davies and Amy Bryant make suggestions for improving the level of knowledge among professionals through training and discuss, in this engaging and frequently amusing article, some of the issues surrounding the current labelling system.
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Keywords: categories; doctors; learning difficulties; specific; teachers

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2005

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