History, classification and terminology of MLD
This unit explores the background and history of moderate learning difficulties (MLD) in order to give you an understanding of the complexities of identifying and supporting pupils with such difficulties.
The unit covers:
- The history of MLD.
- Medical and social models of disability.
- Definitions of MLD, and what they mean for educational provision.
This timeline should help prompt you during Task 1, as you complete the writing frame based on your reading of Moderate learning difficulties and the future of inclusion. Slide over any year or period for a brief summary of notable points.
Task 1: the history of MLD
Comparing models of disability
In the context of education, this model asserts that a pupil’s level of ability is the main determining cause of low attainment.
It looks at learning difficulties as a ‘within-child’ issue; so a child struggling to keep up with their peers in school might be deemed ‘slow’, without considering the wider context of their environment.
In more general terms, this model places the onus on how a disability impairs an individual and makes them ‘different’ from the rest of society, rather than looking at surrounding factors that define this.
It is the physical impairment (or in the case of identifying MLD, learning difficulty) that makes the person disabled, rather than the limitations of the world in which they live.
This mind map looks at some of the variable issues surrounding the identification of MLD; select individual areas for further information.
Issues of identification
Differences in approachClose
Governments and organisations such as the WHO have approached the complexities of categorising MLD in different ways, generally revolving around three areas:
- Cognitive abilities testing
- Observing behaviour to supplement such testing
- Taking account of disadvantages and social issues
Identifying MLD in pupils often involves cognitive abilities testing, such as IQ tests, and/or comparing pupils’ attainment to their peers to determine the cut-off points at which MLD is identified.
Taking account of a pupil’s behaviour – for example self-esteem and social living skills – can help to form a fuller understanding of them. This can inform the process of identification, making up for any shortcomings of just using cognitive ability cut-off points.
This area takes account of how factors such as culture, family, linguistic or socio-economic circumstances may disadvantage a pupil and cause educational difficulties.
Identification of MLD is a multi-layered challenge for specialist teachers. For example, effective identification is important to:
- Record accurate information in the School Census.
- Ensure that pupils’ educational provision is suitable for their needs.
However, identification can be made difficult by challenges such as:
- The complexity of the definition of MLD.
- The process of referral for statutory assessment.
- The varying approaches to defining and identifying MLD taken by different (LEAs).
The variables and potential ambiguity linked to the definition of MLD present dilemmas in terms of:
- Whether or not to identify.
- What kind of provision should be made.
- Where a pupil’s provision should be made (i.e., in a mainstream or special school, or if they require withdrawal to work in a smaller group).
Both misidentification and ignoring a pupil’s difficulties can result in an inappropriate or insufficient education for the child. There can also be a stigma attached to identification, and a social impact upon a pupil who is not taught with their non-MLD peers. As such, there is always an element of risk when making your decision.