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Genetic and cognitive understanding of special needs could help learners

Published: 19 April 2013 09:00

 photo YuliaKovas_zps3d74a381.jpg
(Dr Yulia Kovas, Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths)

Understanding the genetic and cognitive processes behind learning difficulties can help teachers optimise learning for individual pupils, according to a new academic study.

The study - by Dr Yulia Kovas from the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London and Tomsk State University, and Professor Brian Butterworth from UCL -outlines the causes of specific learning disabilities (SLDs) and the best way to tailor individual teaching for affected individuals and education professionals.

Up to 10 per cent of the population are affected by SLDs, such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and autism, translating to 2 or 3 pupils in every classroom.

By reviewing current understanding about the neural and genetic basis of SLDs, Dr Kovas and Professor Butterworth were able to clarify what is causing them to develop in order to improve teaching for individual learners and also training for school psychologists, clinicians and teachers.

Dr Kovas commented: "By developing an understanding of how individual differences in brain development interact with formal education and adapting learning pathways accordingly, we can ensure greater educational success will be achieved for all learners.

"Societies that have achieved universal access to education face a new, even more difficult challenge; that of creating educational systems which allow each individual to fully utilise their unique genetic profiles in order to make the most of education. This can only be achieved through individualising educational practice to each learner. A promising approach involves the development of technology-enhanced learning applications that are capable of adapting to individual needs."

The study, published today (Thursday 18 April) in Science, also indicates that children are frequently affected by more than one learning disability.

Dr Kovas added: "While these conditions in isolation already provide a challenge for educators, an additional problem is that specific learning disabilities also co-occur far more often than would be expected. For example, in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, 33 to 45 per cent also suffer from dyslexia and 11 per cent from dyscalculia."


Notes to Editors
- Dr Kovas is available for interview, contact the Press Office to arrange.
- Images of Dr Kovas are available on request
- Copies of 'Understanding Neurocognitive Developmental Disorders Can Improve Education for All' by Brian Butterworth & Yulia Kovas, are available on request.
- For more information about the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London visit: http://www.gold.ac.uk/psychology/
- For more information about Goldsmiths' MSc in the Science of Psychology, Genetics & Education visit: http://www.gold.ac.uk/pg/msc-psychology-genetics-education/

For further information
Peter Austin,
Press & PR Manager,
Goldsmiths, University of London
t: +44 (0)20 7919 7909
m: +44 (0)7753309095
e: p.austin@gold.ac.uk

Content last modified: 16 Aug 2010

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