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An Introduction to Learning Disabilities

Does your child have trouble reading out loud, writing an essay, or even solving basic math? These struggles might indicate learning disabilities, an umbrella term for a wide variety of learning problems.

A learning disability or disorder is not a problem of intelligence or motivation. Children with these deficits aren’t lazy or dumb. They are as smart as everyone else but have brains that process information and function differently.


 
Those with learning disabilities see, hear, and understand things in a different way. These differences can lead to trouble with learning new information or skills and then putting those skills to use. The most common types of learning disabilities involve problems with reading, writing, math, and reasoning, alongside with listening and speaking.

While many children have difficulty with their homework from time to time, if a certain area continues to show problems, it might indicate a learning disability.

Learning Disabilities: A Timeline


 
Learning disabilities can arise in children at a very young age. Genetic and neurological factors alter brain functioning in ways that affect one or more of the cognitive processes connected to learning.

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Such processing problems can interfere with online learning skills such as reading, writing, and math. Your child might also have problems developing higher-level skills such as time planning, organization, and abstract reasoning, as well as short- and long-term memory and attention.

You can spot the signs and symptoms of learning disabilities most often during the school years. However, some children do not receive an evaluation until they are in post-secondary education or the workforce.

Learning disabilities must not be confused with learning problems, which are primarily due to visual, auditory, motor, and intellectual handicaps. Learning problems can also arise from emotional disturbance or environmental, cultural, and economic disadvantages.

 

Children with learning disabilities have above average intelligence. Often, however, there is a gap between your child’s potential and his or her actual achievement. Your child may look and seem bright, but he or she is also unable to demonstrate the skills expected from someone at that age.

Since a learning disability cannot be cured or fixed, it can pose a lifelong predicament for children and parents. There are several types of learning disabilities that benefit from appropriate support and intervention. Timely assistance and intervention can help children achieve success in school, relationships, and their communities.

Types of Learning Disabilities

 

Dyscalculia

This type of learning deficit affects your child’s ability to comprehend numbers and learn math facts. Those with dyscalculia demonstrate impaired math calculation skills.

Children with dyscalculia also have weaknesses in fundamental number representation and processing, resulting in difficulties with quantifying sets without counting, using nonverbal processes to complete basic numerical operations, and estimating relative magnitudes of sets.

Because math skills are needed for higher-level problem solving, quantitative reasoning weakens later in life.

Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is a common form of learning disability that affects your child’s handwriting ability and fine motor skills.

This disability impairs legibility and automatic letter writing/numeral writing, thus interfering with math learning. Those with dysgraphia have difficulty planning and organizing letters and numerals.

Dyslexia

Deficits in accurate and fluent word recognition characterize this learning disability.

Dyslexia affects a child’s reading and related language-based processing skills. Poor word reading can lead to improper reading comprehension skills. A child will then struggle with word recognition, decoding, and spelling.

Your child may also have weakened phonemic and phonological awareness, meaning a difficulty hearing, identifying, and manipulating the sound structure of a verbalized word, including phonemes, syllables, onsets, and rhymes.

Children with dyslexia may also have impaired orthographic processing, which interferes with connecting letters and letter combinations with sounds correctly and fluently.

Written and Oral language Disorder and Specific Reading Comprehension Deficit

This learning disability affects your child’s understanding of what he or she reads and understands. Your child may suffer from this disability if he or she struggles with expressing language in oral and written forms, or often doesn’t understand what is written or spoken to them.

Children exhibit Specific Language Impairment related to weakened semantic processing and syntactic processing. Semantic processing is the encoding of words and deriving their meanings. Syntactic processing is the understanding of the order of words and how that order can change the word’s meaning.

Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities

If your child has trouble interpreting nonverbal indications like facial expressions or body language and has poor coordination of both, he or she might be suffering from non-verbal learning disabilities.

A developing body of research shows that approximately five percent of individuals with learning disabilities have cognitive and academic difficulties linked to nonverbal learning disabilities.

These disabilities include impairment of motoric skills and visual-spatial organizational memory with social abilities. Often children with these disabilities have a well-developed vocabulary and strong reading abilities with rote language skills.

It is not easy to always find and identify your child’s learning disabilities. There are many variations and no single profile of symptoms that define a problem.

Remember to watch for early warning signs. If you are aware of what the problem could be, you can more easily detect a learning disorder and quickly get your child help.

Learning Disabilities: Conclusion


 
Paying attention to normal developmental milestones for preschoolers and kindergarten children is very important. If you detect developmental differences early on, it might signal a problem. If you are able to spot these problems promptly, you can help correct them at a later stage.

A developmental setback is not a symptom of a learning disability until your child is of a certain age. But if you recognize it while they are still young, you can intervene early on and request an evaluation. You could also ask your pediatrician for a developmental milestone chart.

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Diagnosing a learning disability is a process that involves testing, history taking, and observation by a trained therapist. Find a good doctor and make sure you are communicating directly with your child’s school.

You can then talk to your insurance company, friends, and family who can all effectively help you and your child.

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