What Are Learning Disabilities?


According to the National Institute of Health, about 1 in 7 Americans have a learning disability.  A learning disability is a lifelong neurological disorder.  All children learn in highly individual ways. Children with learning disabilities simply process information differently. They are generally of normal or above-average intelligence but have difficulty with reading, writing, spelling, reasoning, recalling and/or organizing information especially if left to figure things out by themselves or if taught in conventional ways. This is according to LD Online, the world’s leading website on learning disabilities and ADHD.  Children with learning disabilities have trouble learning because their minds process words or information differently.

Difficulty with language and reading is the most common disability and as many as 80% of children with a learning disability struggle with reading.

 

Most Common Learning Disabilites

The most common learning disabilities according to LD Online include:

Dyslexia – a language-based disability in which a person has trouble understanding written words. It may also be referred to as a reading disability or reading disorder.

Dyscalculia – a mathematical disability in which a person has a difficult time solving arithmetic problems and grasping math concepts.

Dysgraphia – a writing disability in which a person finds it hard to form letters or write within a defined space.

Auditory and Visual Processing Disorders – sensory disabilities in which a person has difficulty understanding language despite normal hearing and vision.

Nonverbal Learning Disabilities – a neurological disorder which originates in the right hemisphere of the brain, causing problems with visual-spatial, intuitive, organizational, evaluative and holistic processing functions.

 

Early Signs to Watch Out For

The earlier a learning disability is detected, the better chance a child will have of succeeding in school and in life.  Here are some early signs to look out for:

Early warning signs:

Preschool

1. Is taking a longer time to talk than other children the same age

2. Has trouble with the pronunciation of certain words

3. Has trouble finding the right word

4. Has difficulty acquiring new vocabulary words

4. Has difficulty rhyming words

5. Has trouble learning numbers, the alphabet and the days of the week

6. Has trouble “staying still” and is easily distracted

7. Has difficulty with social interactions

8. Has difficulty following directions

 

Kindergarten through fourth grade

1. Has difficulty learning the connection between letters and sounds

2. Confuses basic words (run, eat, want)

3. Makes the same reading and spelling errors consistently including letter reversals (b/d), inversions (m/w), transpositions (felt/left), and substitutions (house/home)

4. Transposes number sequences and confuses arithmetic signs (+, -, x, /, =)

5. Is slow to recall facts

6. Has difficulty learning new skills

7. Has  trouble learning time

8. Has poor coordination, unaware of physical surroundings, prone to accidents

 

What to do

If your child is struggling with learning and you suspect he may have a learning disability, there are some steps that you can take to help your doctor or school find out what is going on and most importantly, help your child.

Don’t wait. if you suspect that something is wrong, contact your child’s pediatrician or the school and have him evaluated.  The earlier your child gets help the better his chances of succeeding.

Keep a record of your concerns and observations. Include specific examples if you think it will be helpful. I have even taken video of my children so I can clearly show my pediatrician and the school what my concerns are.

Collect relevant information. If available, bring report cards, samples of schoolwork and notes from parent-teacher meetings. It’s also helpful to know your family’s medical history and whether or not any relatives are known to have had a learning disability or other disorder that impacts learning. Knowledge is power – the more background information you can provide, the better.

Stay positive. Having a learning disability will not prevent your child from being successful in school, at work or in life.  With early intervention, the right supports, modifications and accommodations your child will thrive.  Many successful and famous people including Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, General George Patton, Charles Shwab and Whoopi Goldberg have learning disabilities.

 

 

Creative commons-licensed photo provided by Alexandratx.

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