University launches new centre for study of learning difficulties

A new centre supporting children and young people with learning difficulties is to be opened at the University of Edinburgh.

The Salvesen Mindroom Centre to Understand and Resolve Learning Difficulties will be the first of its kind in the UK, working in cooperation with the Scottish charity Mindroom as well as the National Health Service (NHS).

Researchers and clinicians will also draw on the expertise of similar existing institutions at the University of Edinburgh, such as the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic and the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research.

At least five children are affected by some form of learning difficulty in every school class across the UK.

The most common are dyslexia, dyspraxia, specific speech and language impairments, developmental coordination disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Mindroom supports families and offers practical help and advice for individuals and organisations which work with people with learning difficulties.

Sophie Dow founded Mindroom in 2000, and as a mother of a student with learning difficulties, she is thrilled to see that research, outreach and clinical work on learning difficulties will be placed under the same roof.

Dow said: “This new approach encourages essential collaboration between relevant organisations which will ultimately save valuable time in obtaining help for children and their families.

“We are absolutely delighted to be part of this exciting and groundbreaking new Centre.”

The Salvesen Mindroom Centre for to Understand and Resolve Learning Difficulties is financially supported by Alastair and Elizabeth Salvesen.

Mr Salvesen is the Chairman of Dawnfresh Seafood, one of Scotland’s largest seafood processing firms and a descendant of the Salvesen shipping empire.

His wealth was estimated at £1.2 billion in 2012.

He explained his interest in the centre: “By gathering meaningful statistics and undertaking research those with learning difficulties of all types should benefit greatly in the long term.”

Salvesen also said although students with learning difficulties are not labelled as stupid anymore, there is still a lot of research and effort required to solve the problems of those students before they build up frustration.

Professor Jonathan Seckl, Vice Principal of Planning, Resources and Research Policy at the Queen’s Medical Research Institute, said learning difficulties were a “substantially neglected” area of research, despite their common occurrence.

He continued: “This donation will enable us to advance this vital area of medical research into improved practice.

“The close relationship between the Centre’s partners will maximise the necessary knowledge and expertise to inform policy both in the NHS, education and voluntary sectors.”

Professor Anne O’Hare is director-designate of the new Centre and a consultant paediatrician.

She said: “I am highly delighted to be able to lead research and drive the centre towards transforming the care of children and young people with developmental learning disorders.

“Through the Salvesens’ gift we will be able to deliver a better approach to supporting children with the wide range of conditions that impact on their learning.”

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