Nov 22, 2010, 11:50 AM
What do we know about Learning Disability?
What is Learning Disability?
Learning disability is a classification including several areas of functioning in which a person has difficulty learning in a typical manner, usually caused by an unknown factor or factors.
While learning disability, learning disorder and learning difficulty are often used interchangeably, they differ in many ways. Disability refers to significant learning problems in an academic area.
These problems, however, are not enough to warrant an official diagnosis. Learning disorder, on the other hand, is an official clinical diagnosis, whereby the individual meets certain criteria, as determined by a professional (psychologist, pediatrician, etc.)
The difference is in degree, frequency, and intensity of reported symptoms and problems, and thus the two should not be confused. When the term “learning disabilities” is used, it describes a group of disorders characterized by inadequate development of specific academic, language, and speech skills. Types of learning disabilities include reading disability (dyslexia), mathematics disability (dyscalculia) and writing disability (dysgraphia).
The unknown factor is the disorder that affects the brain’s ability to receive and process information. This disorder can make it problematic for a person to learn as quickly or in the same way as someone who is not affected by a learning disability. People with a learning disability have trouble performing specific types of skills or completing tasks if left to figure things out by themselves or if taught in conventional ways.
Individuals with learning disabilities can face unique challenges that are often pervasive throughout the lifespan. Depending on the type and severity of the disability, interventions and current technologies may be used to help the individual learn strategies that will foster future success. Some interventions can be quite simplistic, while others are intricate and complex.
Current technologies may require student training to be effective classroom supports. Teachers, parents and schools can create plans together that tailor intervention and accommodations to aid the individual in successfully becoming independent learners. School psychologists and other qualified professionals quite often help design the intervention and coordinate the execution of the intervention with teachers and parents. Social support may improve the learning for students with learning disabilities.
In the 1980s, the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) defines the term learning disability as:
a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual and presumed to be due to Central Nervous System Dysfunction. Even though a learning disability may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions (e.g. sensory impairment, intellectual disability, social and emotional disturbance) or environmental influences (e.g. cultural differences, insufficient/inappropriate instruction, psychogenic factors) it is not the direct result of those conditions or influences.
Learning Disabilities Disorders
Types of Learning Disabilities and Learning Disorders and their Signs
Does your child struggle with school? Does he or she dread reading out loud, writing an essay, or tackling a math problem? While every kid has trouble with homework from time to time, if a certain area of learning is consistently problematic, it might indicate a learning disorder. By understanding all you can about learning disabilities, you can ensure your child gets the right help to overcome classroom challenges and succeed in life.
Learning disabilities, or learning disorders, are an umbrella term for a wide variety of learning problems. A learning disability is not a problem with intelligence or motivation. Kids with learning disabilities aren’t lazy or dumb. In fact, most are just as smart as everyone else. Their brains are simply wired differently. This difference affects how they receive and process information.
Simply put, children and adults with learning disabilities see, hear, and understand things differently. This can lead to trouble with learning new information and skills, and putting them to use. The most common types of learning disabilities involve problems with reading, writing, math, reasoning, listening, and speaking.
Children with learning disabilities can, and do, succeed
It can be tough to face the possibility that your child has a learning disorder. No parents want to see their children suffer. You may wonder what it could mean for your child’s future, or worry about how your kid will make it through school. Perhaps you’re concerned that by calling attention to your child’s learning problems he or she might be labelled “slow” or assigned to a less challenging class.
But the important thing to remember is that most kids with learning disabilities are just as smart as everyone else. They just need to be taught in ways that are tailored to their unique learning styles. By learning more about learning disabilities in general, and your child’s learning difficulties in particular, you can help pave the way for success at school and beyond.
Signs and symptoms of learning disabilities and disorders
Learning disabilities look very different from one child to another. One child may struggle with reading and spelling, while another loves books but can’t understand math. Still another child may have difficulty understanding what others are saying or communicating out loud. The problems are very different, but they are all learning disorders.
It’s not always easy to identify learning disabilities. Because of the wide variations, there is no single symptom or profile that you can look to as proof of a problem. However, some warning signs are more common than others at different ages. If you’re aware of what they are, you’ll be able to catch a learning disorder early and quickly take steps to get your child help.
The following checklist lists some common red flags for learning disorders. Remember that children who don’t have learning disabilities may still experience some of these difficulties at various times. The time for concern is when there is a consistent unevenness in your child’s ability to master certain skills.
Preschool signs and symptoms of learning disabilities
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Problems pronouncing words
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Trouble finding the right word
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Difficulty rhyming
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, colours, shapes, days of the week
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Difficulty following directions or learning routines
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Difficulty controlling crayons, pencils, and scissors or colouring within the lines
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Trouble with buttons, zippers, snaps, learning to tie shoes
Ages 5-9 signs and symptoms of learning disabilities
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Trouble learning the connection between letters and sounds
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Unable to blend sounds to make words
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Confuses basic words when reading
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Consistently misspells words and makes frequent reading errors
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Trouble learning basic math concepts
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Difficulty telling time and remembering sequences
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Slow to learn new skills
Ages 10-13 signs and symptoms of learning disabilities
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Difficulty with reading comprehension or math skills
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Trouble with open-ended test questions and word problems
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Dislikes reading and writing; avoids reading aloud
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Spells the same word differently in a single document
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Poor organizational skills (bedroom, homework, desk is messy and disorganized)
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Trouble following classroom discussions and expressing thoughts aloud
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Poor handwriting
Paying attention to developmental milestones can help you identify learning disorders
Paying attention to normal developmental milestones for toddlers and preschoolers is very important. Early detection of developmental differences may be an early signal of a learning disability and problems that are spotted early can be easier to correct.
A developmental lag might not be considered a symptom of a learning disability until your child is older, but if you recognize it when your child is young, you can intervene early. You know your child better than anyone else does, so if you think there is a problem, it doesn’t hurt to get an evaluation. You can also ask your paediatrician for a developmental milestones chart.
Problems with reading, writing, and math
Learning disabilities are often grouped by school-area skill set. If your child is in school, the types of learning disorders that are most conspicuous usually revolve around reading, writing, or math.
Learning disabilities in reading (dyslexia)
There are two types of learning disabilities in reading. Basic reading problems occur when there is difficulty understanding the relationship between sounds, letters and words. Reading comprehension problems occur when there is an inability to grasp the meaning of words, phrases, and paragraphs.
Signs of reading difficulty include problems with:
[if !supportLists]•[endif]letter and word recognition
[if !supportLists]•[endif]understanding words and ideas
[if !supportLists]•[endif]reading speed and fluency
[if !supportLists]•[endif]general vocabulary skills
Learning disabilities in math (dyscalculia)
Learning disabilities in math vary greatly depending on the child’s other strengths and weaknesses. A child’s ability to do math will be affected differently by a language learning disability, or a visual disorder or a difficulty with sequencing, memory or organization.
A child with a math–based learning disorder may struggle with memorization and organization of numbers, operation signs, and number “facts” (like 5+5=10 or 5x5=25). Children with math learning disorders might also have trouble with counting principles (such as counting by 2s or counting by 5s) or have difficulty telling time.
Learning disabilities in writing (dysgraphia)
Learning disabilities in writing can involve the physical act of writing or the mental activity of comprehending and synthesizing information. Basic writing disorder refers to physical difficulty forming words and letters. Expressive writing disability indicates a struggle to organize thoughts on paper.
Symptoms of a written language learning disability revolve around the act of writing. They include problems with:
[if !supportLists]•[endif]neatness and consistency of writing
[if !supportLists]•[endif]accurately copying letters and words
[if !supportLists]•[endif]spelling consistency
[if !supportLists]•[endif]writing organization and coherence
Learning disabilities in language (aphasia/dyspepsia)
Language and communication learning disabilities involve the ability to understand or produce spoken language. Language is also considered an output activity because it requires organizing thoughts in the brain and calling upon the right words to verbally explain something or communicate with someone else.
Signs of a language-based learning disorder involve problems with verbal language skills, such as the ability to retell a story and the fluency of speech, as well as the ability to understand the meaning of words, parts of speech, directions, et
Other disorders that make learning difficult
Difficulty in school doesn’t always stem from a learning disability. Anxiety, depression, stressful events, emotional trauma, and other conditions affecting concentration make learning more of a challenge. In addition, ADHD and autism sometimes co-occur or are confused with learning disabilities.
[if !supportLists]•[endif]ADHD – Attention deficit hyperactivitydisorder (ADHD), while not considered a learning disability, can certainly disrupt learning. Children with ADHD often have problems sitting still, staying focused, following instructions, staying organized, and completing homework.
[if !supportLists]•[endif]Autism – Difficulty mastering certain academic skills can stem from pervasive developmental disorders such as autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Children with autism spectrum disorders may have trouble communicating, reading body language, learning basic skills, making friends, and making eye contact.
Diagnosis and testing for learning disabilities and disorders
Diagnosing a learning disability isn’t always easy. Don’t assume you know what your child’s problem is, even if the symptoms seem clear. It’s important to have your child tested and evaluated by a qualified professional.
That said, you should trust your instincts. If you think something is wrong, listen to your gut. If you feel that a teacher or doctor is minimizing your concerns, seek a second opinion. Don’t let anyone tell you to “wait and see” or “don’t worry about it” if you see your child struggling. Regardless of whether or not your child’s problems are due to a learning disability, intervention is needed. You can’t go wrong by looking into the issue and taking action.
When it comes to learning disabilities, look at the big picture
All children need love, encouragement, and support, and for kids with learning disabilities, such positive reinforcement can help ensure that they emerge with a strong sense of self-worth, confidence, and the determination to keep going even when things are tough.
In searching for ways to help children with learning disabilities, remember that you are looking for ways to help them help themselves. Your job as a parent is not to “cure” the learning disability, but to give your child the social and emotional tools he or she needs to work through challenges. In the long run, facing and overcoming a challenge such as a learning disability can help your child grow stronger and more resilient.
Always remember that the way you behave and respond to challenges has a big impact on your child. A good attitude won’t solve the problems associated with a learning disability, but it can give your child hope and confidence that things can improve and that he or she will eventually succeed.
For further information E-Mail email@example.com or text Dr Azadeh on 002207774469/3774469.
Author: Dr Azadeh Senior Lecturer at the University of the Gambia, Senior Physician, Senior Consultant in Obstetrics & Gynaecology