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Under The Microscope

UNDERSTANDING LEARNING DIFFICULTIES: A GUIDE FOR TEACHERS AND PARENTS, by James W. Chapman; Massey University Educational Research and Development Centre; 100 pp

The aim of this book is to "broaden the understanding of the problems many children have in learning in school. While the book meets these objectives, it is not until the latter part of the book that the most worthwhile findings on the topic and the strategies for handling children with learning difficulties are to be found.

In the opening chapters, Professor Chapman reviews the development of a workable definition of the term "learning disabled" and exposes the difficulty associated with identifying the affected child compared to children with closely-related mental disabilities. Once a definition is established and the characteristics of learning disabled children listed, the book begins to address the aims set out above.

As a teacher and parent, I had no difficulty recognising the features displayed by LD children. The overview of the strategies that work and those that do not work when educating these children I found to be most useful. My only criticism is the amount of time it took to get to the thrust of the book. A parent wishing to get some assistance could quickly tire of reading of the problems of arriving at a working definition and could easily put the book down before coming to the most enlightening part.

In addition, while seeking to explain causes and processes in plain English, there is a wide usage of technical language that would deter a lot of people from reading it from cover to cover.

As a resource book for teachers, it has my utmost commendation. In addition to clarifying my ideas and strategies for teaching one of my classes, it made me aware of how to encourage better learning habits from "normal" students.

Geoff Groves is Head of Science at Ellesmere High School.

Geoff Groves is HOD Science at Ellesmere College