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Members of the PACFOLD research team determined that the parameters of the PACFOLD study would focus on persons aged 5 to 44 years.

The current practice of identifying those at risk for learning disabilities usually starts when a child enters the school system, generally around the age of five. Therefore, research on the impact of learning disabilities at an early age focuses on the age of five as a starting point. The age of forty-four was identified as the upper end of the research, for two reasons.

The term learning disability was first applied in the early 1960’s; and those identified by diagnosticians in the late 60s, early 70s are now in this age bracket. Again the early educational focus of identification has led to sparse documentation for older Canadians who had already left the school system, and many today still do not have a diagnosis of LD.

Six categories were identified by the Research Team as significantly impacting upon persons with learning disabilities and their families. These included education, personal and social development, employment, parent and family, health and finance. Each category contains a number of specific indicators that may or may not help determine if a person has learning disabilities.

The statistical databases were then examined to determine if there were specific questions that would elicit the information necessary to outline the impact of learning disabilities on Canadians in their daily life. Ten databases or surveys from Statistics Canada were identified that included questions to identify the population with learning disabilities and to provide data to generate many of the indicators identified.

The four age groupings are consistent with age groupings found in relevant Canadian data surveys.

Availability of Indicators of Selected Statistic Canada Surveys

Key areas/
Data Sets

Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Employment Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Personal/social relationships Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes n/a Yes Yes Yes
Health Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes n/a n/a Yes Yes Yes
Finance Yes Yes Yes Yes n/a v n/a n/a n/a Yes

—: not applicable         n/a: Not available – area not covered on the survey

HALS: Health and Activity Limitation Survey (1991) 0-14 and adults NLSCY: National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (4 cycles - 1994-2001)
PALS: Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (2001) 0-14 and adults APS: Aboriginal Peoples Survey (1991)
LSUDA: Literacy Skills Used in Daily Living (1989) IALS: International Adult Literacy Survey (1994)
PISA: Program of International Student Assessment (2000) YITS: Youth in Transition Survey (2000)
CCHS: Canadian Community Health Survey Cycle 1.2 (2002)  

One in 10 Canadians have LD – that’s the statistics that has been around for a long time.

Why then do the data from the surveys that are included in the PACFOLD Study not support this statistic? There are a number of reasons.

    1. The term “learning disability” is not a term recognized in many households.
    2. Parents know that there child is experiencing some difficulty in learning. They want the child to be tested but the testing has yet to be arranged.
    3. Some parents are reluctant to talk about their child and LD to a Statistics Canada interviewer and so would not identify their child as having LD.
    4. If the child is not diagnosed as having LD and drops out of school, he/she adjusts his/her life to accommodate any learning difficulty he/she has and then believes that there is no longer a problem with learning.
    5. Adults who know they have difficulty learning, even those who have been diagnosed with LD will not self–identify because of the stigma associated with any disability that deals with mental or learning processes. That’s why for example the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey ask the question in three ways – did you ever have a learning disability – if yes, did you have it when you were in school and do you have it now. Many who answered yes while in school denied having it now. 
    6. So – bottom line – what is the reality? It may be one in ten. It's for sure not as low as the data from the surveys show. Probably somewhere in between but until we get the population to understand what LD is and what it is not and we get the population to understand that people with LD just learn differently and the perceived stigma associated with self-disclosure is removed, we will probably get low figures in surveys.