Shaping the Future of Policy on Learning Disorders

A comparative analysis of US, Canada UK & Sweden


  • Katie Gu Stanford University


Learning disabilities (LD) arise out of neurological differences in structure and function that impede an individual's ability to receive, process, retain, and retrieve information. Similar disruptions in learning manifest in autism, a highly complex neurodevelopmental disorder. For these individuals, learning disabilities are concrete and permanent, resulting in lifelong difficulties in learning, employment, and social recognition. Cases of delayed LD identification are often associated with debilitating incapacitation, resulting from low self-esteem, underachievement, and underemployment.
Government policy needs to stand at the forefront of knocking down the many barriers that hinder individuals with LD from becoming confident, independent members of society. Policies from North American and European nations contain respective strengths, and thus international discussions and comparative research should be conducted on LD policies. This article examines national policies of the US, UK, Canada, and Sweden, focusing on identification, funding, and core focuses of learning disability policy.
I argue three main points within each respective category of diagnosis, funding, and goals of LD policy. First, educators need to play larger roles in the identification of LD, and government policy should facilitate this role. Second, funding for LD and autism support is largely channelled towards educational initiatives, but such initiatives are currently too broad to promote concrete outcomes. Funding needs to go towards specific categories of support – including assistive technologies, assessment protocols, or extracurricular/pre-professional activities. Finally, the foremost focus of policy should be placed on addressing employment disparities for individuals with LD/autism. Such policy would go the furthest ways in promoting the "normalization principle" and "social role valorization," which are two guiding principles that can help increase opportunities for persons with disabilities, equip them with socially-valued roles, and bring them towards a greater level of social equality.






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