Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Survey uncovers terminology preferences

A survey by learning disability charity Netbuddy.org.uk has found that the term that parents, carers and professionals prefer to describe the people they live and work with is a person with a ‘learning disability’. This term took 36% of the votes, with ‘special needs’ coming in second place with 23%.

Some respondents felt that ‘special needs’ referred more to school-age children, with ‘learning disability’ more appropriate for adults. Meanwhile a couple of people said they found the term slightly patronising. However, the survey found considerable debate about which term to use, with 11% admitting they used various terms interchangeably. Meanwhile, the term ‘learning difficulties’ polled 10%. Some followers surveyed felt that ‘learning difficulties’ referred to conditions that affected learning, such as dyslexia, and often referred to a child’s academic attainment.

In the same vein, ‘special educational needs’ took 4% of the vote. This term was felt to relate to school-age children only. ‘Complex needs’ polled 3% of the votes, but as one respondent pointed out the terms means different things to different people. It tends to describe someone with a multi-faceted condition, rather than being a term that can be used to describe all people with learning disabilities.

One per cent of voters still used the term ‘mentally handicapped’. But a number of respondents emphasised that any label is secondary to the person. One family support officer said that the child or young person is always mentioned first, followed by their additional needs. To view the full results, go to http://netbuddytoptips.blogspot.com/2012/02/language-can-be-minefield-particularly.html

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