[EDEQUITY Disability] Learning Disability and Welfare

From: Susan Foley (Susan.Foley@umb.edu)
Date: Tue Aug 20 2002 - 11:04:06 EDT

About a year ago, I participated in a panel presentation on welfare and
disability issues for the IWPR (Institute for Women's Policy Research,
Ibelieve). Glenn Young from the Department of Education pointed out that
many girls who had unsuccessful high school experiences and ended up in
welfare were students with learning disabilities that went undiagnosed. His
theory is that since girls have higher averages in the type of tests that
are linked to learning disability diagnosis (i.e., their averages are
higher than boys), they have to score really poorly to be diagnosed as
having a learning disability. He is interested in looking at the
association between underdiagnosis in girls and entry into the welfare

I'd like to put a different spin on the question about the diagnosis of
girls versus boys or by racial category. That is, where is there a low
referral to special education combined with high rates of graduation? Would
not it be helpful to find the stellar programs? Many of these figures seem
to me to be national trends of the moderate or poorly performing programs
that over refer "problem" students and not graduate the others.

Disability policy lately has been moving toward inclusion in the
mainstream, universal design for learning, and accommodating needs rather
than labeling with a diagnosis. In theory, high performing schools,
colleges, state systems should have high outcomes and low use of
specialized services for special populations. Welfare systems should be
able to serve women with disabilities in training programs rather than
create disability training programs. Workforce development programs should
be able to assist any one in getting a job. Schools should be able to teach
all children and leave no one behind. Where is this happening?

Susan Foley,PhD
Institute for Community Inclusion
Boston, MA

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