LEARNING DISABILITY

Reviewed by Paul Keenan, Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin

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The authors explore people’s strengths and needs in the context of their natural bio-psycho-social growth and development through the lifespan. This is an important departure from the traditional textbook approach, which has generally focused narrowly on areas of specific need, such as challenging behaviour or epilepsy. By presenting knowledge in this way, Grant et al. provide the reader with a more holistic and authentic knowledge base for understanding people with intellectual disabilities.

The five sections are built round a small, but significant, number of narratives from people with intellectual disabilities. This rare and bold approach provides a richness and depth that most academic writing lacks. The juxtaposition and integration of carefully selected extracts with ‘academic text’ acknowledge the long ignored validity of this legitimate genre as an essential and valuable source of knowledge. What we as readers gain is a greater insight into the wide range of perspectives and experiences expressed by people with intellectual disabilities themselves.

While one would have liked to see a number of areas developed further—e.g. meeting the person’s medical/surgical needs and the final section on care of the older person with intellectual disability—it should be acknowledged that research in these areas still remains limited. Secondly, even within a book of this size (757 pages), it is not always possible to give the same breadth and depth to each area. In saying that, the book is crammed full of useful research and references which guide and encourage the reader to seek out further material in special areas of interest.

The authors state their primary aim is to serve two audiences: professionals updating their knowledge and understanding, and students new to the field. While the former group is well served by a wide range of contemporary source material, the latter group is less so. The book is pitched in parts at a level that assumes prior knowledge by the reader, which many students new to this field may not have. The oscillation between meeting the needs of both groups is not always successfully achieved, nor, it should be recognised, is this task normally easy to achieve.

However, the authors have produced a major scholarly work that is clearly written and generally accessible. Read in conjunction with Gates’ (2003) fourth edition Learning Disabilities: Towards Inclusion (a marked improvement on the third edition), both the student and professional are now well served with two core texts in this area.

The authors are to be highly commended for the depth and breadth of their work and for the rare achievement of successfully placing the perspectives of people
with intellectual disabilities at the centre of our learning. I highly recommend this book.

LEARNING DISABILITY – A life cycle approach to valuing people, edited by Gordan Grant, Peter Goward, Malcome Richardson and Paul Ramcharan (2005). Open University Press, Maidenhead. ISBN 978 0335 21439 6, Paperback. 7 978 0335 21826 4, Hardback.

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