Learning Difficulties Australia was established in 1965 as the Diagnostic and Remedial Teachers’ Association of Victoria. In 1987 it became an Incorporated Association under the name of the Australian Remedial Education Association, and in 1994 the Association was renamed the Australian Resource Educators’ Association. There was a further change of name in 2001, when it adopted the current name of Learning Difficulties Australia. Its current Journal, the Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, was first established in May 1969 under the name Remedial Education (1969 to 1972), and then the Australian Journal of Remedial Education (1973 to March 1996). It was renamed the Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities in June 1996. In 2008 publication of the Journal was taken over by Taylor and Francis, a leading publisher of academic Journals, when it adopted its current name of the Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties.
In June 2005 LDA commissioned Dr Jo Jenkinson to write a history of Learning Difficulties Australia.
The history was published as a six part series in the Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities over the period March 2006 to March 2007 (Volume 11, No 1, 2006 to Volume 12, No 1, 2007).
As noted by Jo Jenkinson:
Learning Difficulties Australia began life some 40 years ago when a small group of remedial teachers in Melbourne – mostly employed in independent schools –began meeting for informal discussions over coffee. Like most classroom teachers, the members of this group were no strangers to children who were significantly underachieving, especially in reading and mathematics, despite an apparently ‘normal’ level of intelligence. The learning difficulties of these children were, however, rarely officially acknowledged and there were few opportunities for teachers to receive the specialised training needed to understand and deal with their problems. This situation changed with the introduction in the 1960s of a certificate course in remedial education at the Schonell Special Education Centre, University of Queensland. Many of the teachers who gathered over coffee in those early years had undertaken this course, and valued the continuing support of fellow graduates as they endeavoured to convince school authorities of the benefits of employing qualified remedial teachers. Thus was born the Diagnostic and Remedial Teachers Association of Victoria, its broad aim to foster a professional image of teachers who worked with students with learning difficulties through a range of activities, including a consultancy referral service, lobbying of funding bodies, professional development and publications. In the early 1970s remedial teachers in other states were contacted with the aim of establishing a national body, and the name was changed to Australian Remedial Education Association to reflect this wider coverage. National affiliations changed over the years, but the central administration remained in Melbourne. In the 1990s, as the term ‘remedial’ fell into disfavour, the name was changed again to Australian Resource Educators Association. More recently the association has adopted the title of Learning Difficulties Australia, which clearly reflects its main focus. (From the LDA Bulletin, Volume 37, No 3, October 2005.)
Dr Jo Jenkinson was formerly a researcher and consultant on psychological testing with the Australian Council for Educational Research. In the early 1980s she worked at Victoria College, Burwood, on evaluation of an innovative integration program in Ballarat, Victoria. She returned to work at ACER in 1984, and in 1991 she moved to a position as Senior Lecturer at Deakin University, Melbourne, where she coordinated and taught post-graduate courses in Disability Studies and Special Education. Her doctoral thesis in the Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne, examined strategies used by children with and without an intellectual disability in early word recognition. She has published widely in Australia and internationally in the areas of intellectual disability and educational integration, including three books on special education provision and over thirty refereed journal articles and book chapters. Before her retirement Jo completed a Graduate Diploma in Professional Writing at Deakin University, including units in Local History and Biography, and has since published two monographs and several articles on local history in the Dandenong Ranges.
With her background in psychological testing, educational research, and teaching in special education, as well as her more recent interest in historical research, Jo Jenkinson was ideally suited to writing the history of LDA. Her history of LDA provides an invaluable record not only of the foundation and development of LDA as an organisation, but of the ideas that influenced the growing recognition of the special needs of students with learning difficulties, and how these might be addressed, as well as the important role played by teachers with specialist training and skills in supporting students with learning difficulties.
Josephine C. Jenkinson
Abstracted from the Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, 2006 to 2007
Part one – the beginning
Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, Volume 11, Issue 1, 2006, pp. 45-53
Part two – a national identity
Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, Volume 11, Issue 2, 2006, pp. 63-71
Part three – the Journal
Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, Volume 11, Issue 2, 2006, pp. 73-81
Part four – managing change
Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, Volume 11, Issue 4, 2006, pp. 175-184
Part five – the journal (continued)
Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, Volume 11, Issue 4, 2006, pp. 185-196
Part six – looking ahead
Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, Volume 12, Issue 1, 2007. pp. 31-41