Monday, April 7, 2014

Utilitarian aspect of learning disorders

Looking into the classification of learning disorders we can see a huge inequality between learners who had specific learning disorders. What I am saying is not that people who are dyslexic are put into more difficult situation compared with the "normal" crowd, but rather that people with a less recognized learning disorder such as dyscalculia are essentially labeled as "retarded" or "stupid" in general, whereas people with a more recognized disorder (even though it is less well-defined) such as dyslexia receive a lot of aid (in fact more so that they sometimes fare better than an average student)... when in fact that they both have deficit in one and only one domain of learning. This, sir, is extremely unfair.

I believe that dyslexia receive so much attention because number one, the alleles related to it probably co-segregates with a lot of high-fitness (as in, evolutionarily, intelligent, beautiful, sociable, and so on) alleles -- and parents of these children tended to be well-off, better educated, and at a better position to fight for resources for their children. and number two, dyslexia is interesting to researchers because these children fails only in one aspect of language development, and there are knowledge to be found in this area[1].

I believe that, care for these developmental disorders would improve if we could define a model in which a child can be scored, in different dimensions, normal dimensions, abnormal dimensions. For example, a child with dyslexia would have a perfectly normal (or even superior) performance dimension, whereas his verbal dimension would be two standard deviations lower than the performance dimension. On the other hand, the social and verbal dimension would necessarily be worse in a person with autism, and a person with attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder would have an attention dimension two standard deviations lower than his average ability in all other dimensions.

With such a classification, we can identify patients whose deficit is in a single dimension which may be readily treatable, and with a central registry, this can enable researchers to recruit subjects with a particular deficit to search for a treatment plan which is best suited to the children in question.

To add to the benefit, the scheme would also allow children whose disability is generalized, in which specific treatment or specific diagnosis is not helpful. 

What do you think?

[1] I am sure as hell researchers are more interested in "lesion patients" than a completely debilitated person - just look at the "Broca" patient, the "Wernicke" patient, and so on in the neurology ward, and the stroke patient beside them. You'll see the difference. The lesion patient got interviewed by 100+ medical students and junior doctors whereas the stroke patient struggle to even get somebody speaking to her.