Lords debates hidden disabilities

29 June 2012

Members of the Lords debated the accessible education and training available to those with 'hidden' disabilities, such as dyslexia and autism yesterday (Thursday 28 June)

Lord Addington (Liberal Democrat) is dyslexic himself and is vice president of the British Dyslexia Association and patron of the Adult Dyslexia Organisation.

He opened the debate calling for more training to allow those working in the education and training sectors to spot hidden disabilities. He said: 'When I linked autism and dyslexia and included them in hidden disabilities, the main point that I was trying to make was that anything that is not easily spotted at the start of the educational process, whenever someone chooses to take that, leads to problems if it impedes one's learning or classroom situation. How early one gets in and identifies the problem is crucial.'

Vice president of the National Autistic Society, Baroness Browning (Conservative), followed and spoke of her 'battle' to bring autism to the top of the agenda. She highlighted the need to address issues in the classroom and look at each individual case of autism.

'Of course, autistic children are different. It is a danger to just lump them all together. Their needs will be different. They are individuals. Their teaching needs will be best addressed by an environment and a teaching process that recognises what those needs are - which needs to be put together after very careful assessment,' she said.

Lord Ramsbotham (Crossbench) declared an interest in the subject as chairman of the All-Party Group on Speech and Language Difficulties and an adviser for the Helen Hamlyn Trust, a foundation supporting young people through arts and education. He explained: 'I am very concerned that people with hidden difficulties and disabilities which could be identified early must have them identified, so that the talents and the treasure can be nurtured and developed not just for their benefit, but for the benefit of the nation as a whole.'

Lord Hill of Oareford (Conservative) parliamentary under-secretary of state for schools and government spokesperson, Department for Education, responded on behalf of the government saying: 'The government are introducing their children and families bill, which in a way, I hope, sets the framework for much of what we have discussed this afternoon and how we hope to be able to improve things in future, because that bill seeks to put into legislation a new framework for the education and training of disabled children, young people and those with special educational needs.'

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