Children with learning disabilities are not low in intelligence or motivation. Their brains, being wired differently, they see, hear, and understand things in their own way. This difference affects how they receive and process information which marks them off from the mundane yet strategic way of learning things.
Is your child struggling at school? Does she fear reading out loud in class? Panics with the thought of writing an essay or is almost in tears while dealing with a math problem? Although every kid might have some trouble with homework from time to time, if a certain learning area remains problematic continually, it might indicate some learning disabilities.
Let’s try and understand
- Common causes of learning disabilities
- The 7 types of common learning disabilities
Definition of learning disability
When we talk about learning disabilities or learning disorders, we can consider it to be an umbrella term that covers a wide variety of learning problems. Hence, Learning Disabilities can be explained as neurologically-based processing problems that can interfere with basic learning skills such as reading, writing and/or math. These problems have to do with the way the brain gets, uses, stores, and sends out information. According to the National Institute of health, 15% of US population have a learning disability. However, it is important to note that disabilities like autism, intellectual disabilities etc. do not fall under learning disability (although attention disorders like ADD or ADHD may appear along with learning disabilities). The most common types of learning disability in children involve problems with reading, writing, math, reasoning, listening, and speaking.
Lyon GR. ( National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA) suggests : An important part of the definition of learning disability is its exclusions: learning disabilities cannot be attributed primarily to mental retardation, emotional disturbance, cultural difference, or disadvantage. Thus, the concept of LD focuses on the notion of a discrepancy between a child’s academic achievement and his or her apparent capacity to learn. Recent research indicates, however, that disability in basic reading skills is primarily caused by deficits in phonological awareness, which is independent of any achievement-capacity discrepancy.
Common Causes of learning disabilities
There can be multiple reasons for the existence of learning disorder in children. The most potent one is, having a parent or relative, who had the same or similar learning difficulties. Other risk factors include low birth weight and prematurity, or an injury or illness during childhood (for example, head injury, childhood illness like meningitis, etc). Therefore, paying attention to developmental milestones for toddlers and preschoolers is very important as they guide in detecting developmental differences which may be an early signal of a learning disability. Hence, problems that are spotted early can be easier to correct and do not spiral out of control in later stages of life.
Types of learning disability
Learning disabilities are often grouped by school-area skill set. The most common learning disabilities usually revolve around reading, writing, or math.
Learning Disabilities In Reading (Dyslexia)
Children with Dyslexia have difficulty in letter and word recognition. They usually spell words incorrectly and have difficulty in understanding what they read. Such children’s vocabulary skills are highly limited and have problems reading fluently. They cannot grasp the meaning of words, phrases, and paragraphs with ease.
Learning Disabilities In Math (Dyscalculia)
This usually affects a person’s ability to do simple math. A child with dyscalculia may struggle to count and recognize numbers. He may have difficulty telling time, counting money, and understand basic concepts such as number values, quantity, and order. Memorizing multiplication tables and solving basic math problems is a huge struggle for such children.
Learning Disabilities in Writing (Dysgraphia)
Children with dysgraphia have difficulty in remembering how letters are formed. They are unable to copy shapes, draw lines or space words out correctly. Their handwriting is usually bad and they face a lot of struggle in organizing and writing their ideas and thoughts down on a paper. They face trouble with spellings when writing words and are usually unable to copy letters accurately.
Learning Disabilities In Motor Skills (Dyspraxia)
Dyspraxia in children creates problems with movement and coordination be it fine motor skills (cutting, writing) or gross motor skills (running, jumping). Such children have difficulties with hand-eye coordination, like holding a pencil, tying shoelaces or buttoning a shirt. A child with dyspraxia may bump into things and often face difficulty in controlling the movements of his limbs. Dyspraxia also creates speech difficulties and problems with eye movements in children.
Learning Difficulties in Language (Aphasia/Dysphasia)
Language is the medium to speak out one’s thoughts by organizing word in the brain and using the correct words to communicate the same to the concerned person. A child with such a learning disability is unable to understand or produce spoken language. Difficulties are often noticed when asked to speak fluently or to retell a story. Such a child is unable to understand the meaning of words, parts of speech, or follow directions.
Auditory Processing Disorder
Hearing sounds correctly impacts our ability to read, write, and spell. However, if this has a problem it can create trouble in children while learning to read or distinguishing sounds from the background noise. Such children cannot follow spoken directions or remember things they’ve heard. APD totally affects a person’s receptive language ability.
Visual Processing Disorder
A child with this learning disability can have trouble in interpreting visual cues and information. Such a disorder can create hand-eye coordination troubles in children. Such a disorder in children can lead to missing subtle differences in shapes, reversing letters or numbers, skipping words or lines, mis-perceiving depth or distance. The child has a hard time with reading or telling the difference between two objects that look similar.
Children with learning disabilities can learn and succeed if they get the right help and support, which can only come with early intervention. It is important to know that kids with learning disabilities are as smart as everyone else; the only difference is, their brain is wired differently. Hence, they should be taught in ways that suit their unique style of learning.
It is understood that as a parent, you might be concerned that your child will be labeled as a slow learner. However, this should not discourage you from helping your child and chalking out strategies to overcome difficulties. Hence, it is advisable to keep cool in such situations and talk to your child’s paediatrician. You can also take the help of psychologists, counsellors, speech pathologists, audiologists who can tailor and devise ways for your child to learn and you shall never regret it.