Reviewed by Mary McEvoy


With over twenty professional UK contributors and footnotes from the WHO and the British Psychological Society, this colourfully presented spiral-bound publication makes a worthy attempt to cover all topics to do with learning disabilities.

Britain uses the term ‘learning disabilities’ as an attempt to designate ‘a significant intellectual impairment, deficits in social functioning or adaptive behaviour, present from childhood’. WHO defines learning disability as ‘a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind’, which involves significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning.

Seven chapters cover terminology, causes, percentages, current issues, additional needs, services and costings—all presented in great detail and catering for UK readers.

Definitions of autism and Asperger Syndrome are current and complex. ‘It is very difficult to diagnose autism and Asperger Syndrome with accuracy.’ Chapter Five, ‘What are the additional needs of people with learning disabilities’, includes credited and documented views on these two perplexing disabilities, including prevalence, specialist programmes and the consistently raised male ratio. Challenging behaviour is present in 5–15% of people with learning disabilities. Research concludes that boys and men are at an increased risk, and that it is a functional and adaptive response to challenging situations. Mental health problems (as distinct from challenging behaviour) affect 25–40% of people with learning disabilities.

The Warnock Committee suggested that ‘one in five children would have a learning difficulty at some time in their lives’. Learning difficulties, as distinct from disabilities, is defined as a greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of the same age and a disability which prevents or hinders the child from making use of ordinary educational facilities.

Chapters are clearly marked and laid out for easy access, but this reader had difficulty matching footnotes to numbers because of colour and minuscule print.

As a follower of research and a lecturer on the causes of disability, I found the chapter on causes lacking as it bore no statistics on suspected environmental causes such as radiation, viruses and chemical pollution.

Overall, this is a very useful publication which contains great detail on the British experience of learning disability.

LEARNING DISABILITIES, THE FUNDAMENTAL FACTS by Eric Emerson, Chris Hatton, David Felce and Glynis Murphy. Mental Health Association, London (20–21 Cornwall Terrace, London NW1 4QL; email: mhf@mhf.org.uk). Stg£22.50 (plus postage). ISBN 0 901944 98X.