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The Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC) Releases Groundbreaking 3-Year $302,000 Study on Learning Disabilities

Study reveals both troubling and encouraging picture of learning disabilities in Canada

Ottawa, Ontario, March 26, 2007 – Today, the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC) releases its long-awaited study on the societal costs of learning disabilities in Canada on www.pacfold.ca. The groundbreaking applied research study, Putting a Canadian Face on Learning Disabilities, took 3 years to develop. The Study set out to find what it means to be a child, youth or adult with learning disabilities (LD) in Canada. In doing so, it discovered the remarkable resiliency of Canadians, both young and old, who live with the condition every day.

“The Putting a Canadian Face on Learning Disabilities study is unique,” said Dr. Alexander M. Wilson, the Study’s co-principal investigator, and Director of the Meighen Centre at Mount Allison University. “It represents the first time that any disability organization in Canada has requested access to Statistics Canada data surveys. Our team examined ten different data sets—the most comprehensive look ever at the impact of living with a learning disability in Canada.”

Canadian Governments can do more to Enable Canadians with Learning Disabilities

Putting a Canadian Face on Learning Disabilities found that Canadian governments can do more to enable people with learning disabilities (LD). People with LD are often prevented from realizing success at school, at work, and in everyday activities. Achievements are often accomplished through factors outside government support, such as:

  • Finding a teacher who is trained to work with a student with LD.
  • Having family support that includes financial resources.
  • Finding the ‘right’ employer that understands learning disabilities and provides the necessary accommodations.

“A learning disability is a series of neurological conditions that severely affects a person’s capacity to perceive, interpret and manage information. Like any other medical condition, there needs to be early identification, interventions and supports to minimize the impact on individuals and the costs to Canadian society. With this support in place, Canadians with learning disabilities will have equitable opportunities to develop their chosen potential”, said Fraser Green, Chair of the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada.

The Study: Putting a Canadian Face on Learning Disabilities

The Study points out the societal costs of ignoring learning disabilities. Chief among its findings are:

  • Canadians with learning disabilities (in some ages) are twice as likely to report that they did not successfully complete high school (i.e. 28.3% of adults with learning disabilities aged 20 to 29 versus only 14.3% of the general population of the same age). People with learning disabilities are also more likely to drop out before graduation.
  • Nearly 1/3 of parents who have children with a learning disability reported that they could not afford the learning aids their children need to succeed academically (i.e. tutoring, assistive technology, etc.).
  • Canadians with learning disabilities overwhelmingly achieve lower than Level 3 in prose literacy. (The desired threshold for coping with the increasing skill demands of a knowledge society.) 
  • Canadians with learning disabilities are less likely to report being employed (51% of adults aged 30 to 44, as compared to 89.1% of the general population of the same age, prior to the 2001 Census period).
  • Canadians with learning disabilities are 2 to 3 times more likely to report high levels of distress, depression, anxiety disorders, suicidal thoughts, and visits to a mental health professional and poorer overall mental and physical health compared to the general population.

Based on the findings of Putting a Canadian Face on Learning Disabilities, the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada prepared a series of research-based recommendations to improve the early detection of learning disabilities. As well, it recommends the support systems needed to help Canadians with LD.

“The results of this study are impossible to ignore,” said Fraser Green, Chair of the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada. “The wait-to-fail approach clearly isn’t working. The provincial/territorial governments need to put early screening and interventions for all Canadian school children into place. There also needs to be more equitable access to learning aids and appropriate accommodations and support for people with learning disabilities.”

The Study’s Focus Groups

The Study also involved twelve focus groups across Canada that were comprised of adults with LD, parents of children with LD and children with LD between the ages of 10-14.

The focus groups confirmed the challenges at school and work for people with a learning disability. The Study also offers an encouraging account of the resourcefulness of people with LD, and how sincerely they want to succeed.

“I was overwhelmed when I heard the success stories of people with learning disabilities,” said Adele Furrie, co-principal investigator of the Study. “With the right interventions at the right time, as well as family support (both emotionally and financially) a Canadian with a learning disability has a stronger likelihood of success. That’s why it’s essential that early identification, interventions and support be put in place for ALL Canadians.”

The Study’s Researchers

The Study was headed by co-principal investigators:

  • Dr. Alexander M. Wilson, Director of the Meighen Centre at Mount Allison University, New Brunswick.
  • Adele Furrie, Ottawa-based expert on disability statistics.

The Study’s team of top Canadian researchers include:

  • Dr. Elizabeth Walcot-Gayda, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Sherbrooke, Quebec.
  • Dr. Catherine Deri Armstrong, Department of Economics of the University of Ottawa.

About the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC)

Since 1963, the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada has provided support to people with learning disabilities, as well as their families, their teachers and other professionals who help them. LDAC is a volunteer-led association representing a network of 10 provincial and 2 territorial Learning Disabilities Associations. From these extends a network of chapters in some 55 communities across the country with more than 7,000 members across Canada. Our role is to help provide a level playing field for opportunities and services for children, youth and adults with learning disabilities. At the national, provincial/territorial and local levels, Learning Disabilities Associations provide cutting edge information on learning disabilities, along with practical solutions and a comprehensive network of programs and resources. These services make LDAC the Canadian leader in the area of learning disabilities.

The Study’s Funding

Putting a Canadian Face on Learning Disabilities was funded in part by the Government of Canada's Social Development Partnerships Program - Disability Component.


Suki Lee, Publicist
Putting a Canadian Face on Learning Disabilities

Claudette Larocque, Information Officer
Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC)
250 City Centre, Suite 616, Ottawa, Ontario K1R 6K7
613-238-5721 ext. 202  fax 613-235-5391