Children with specific learning disability have difficulty in studying because they face a neurological disorder. The problem can affect their basic learning skills like writing, reading, or doing mathematics. They might also not be able to organize, manage time, have abstract reasoning, short memory, and so on. We have to realize that learning disabilities can leave an impact on a person’s life beyond their education or academics. It can affect their family, work, friends, and so on.
Difficulty with writing, doing math, reading, are problems that we can recognize in our children during their school years. This is why it is easy to detect the specific learning disability symptoms. Most parents usually find out about their child’s problem at this stage. However, some might not understand until the 12th grade or during college education.
There are many people who don’t go through an evaluation but also fail to realize why they have always had a problem with academics. Such problems can come into your personal life and make you wonder why you come about ‘different’ to people around.
What is a specific learning disability?
You may wonder what is considered to be a disability. You should not confuse learning problems with a disability which is primarily the result of hearing, visual, or motor difficulties. These are also not intellectual disabilities, environmental issues, emotional turmoil, economic disadvantages, and cultural problems. So, what exactly is a specific learning disability?
Generally, people who have a specific learning disability are considered above average. There is often a gap between their individual potential and their actual achievement. This is also the reason why learning disabilities are called hidden disabilities. The people facing these problems look absolutely normal and might also seem to be bright and intelligent. But they might not be able to demonstrate the skill they expect from someone of the same age.
One cannot cure a specific learning disability – it is a lifelong challenge that one has to cope with. This is also where teachers and parents can play pivotal roles, in shaping a child’s life. Children need proper support from their friends, relatives, and community as well, to feel belonged and cope up with the underlying condition
Specific learning disability categories
According to the Federal Law, under IDEA, a specific learning disability is one of the 13 categories of disability under the law. Read through the types of such disabilities given below to understand what your child might be facing:
1. APD or Auditory Processing Disorder
APD is a condition that disrupts the way sound naturally travels through the ear and how the brain processes it. People, who have APD don’t understand the basic differences between sounds even when they are loud and clear. They might find it tough to understand where the sound is coming from or make sense of different sounds. They cannot block out background noises and focus on what’s close to them.
Dyscalculia is another type of specific learning disability that affects people’s ability to figure out numbers and learn basic maths. People who have this problem might have poor comprehension of symbols and numbers. They may not be able to memorize or organize numbers. They might also find it difficult to tell time and find it difficult to count.
In this condition, people have low motor skills and it reflects in their handwriting ability. They might be adding inconsistent spaces in their writing or not make it readable enough. The specific learning disability triggers poor grammar and difficulty to compose something. It affects both writing and thinking.
When a young child shows reading disorders, it might indicate dyslexia. In this type of specific learning disability, a child finds it tough to process words individually. It affects their reading fluency, decoding, recalling, comprehension skills, and more. Dyslexia is offered related to a language-based disability.
5. LPD or Language Processing Disorder
Just the way someone with APD cannot process sounds and words, someone who has LPD cannot process languages. Having LPD affects both receptive and expressive language.
6. Non-Verbal Specific Learning Disability
A person who has this type of a disability they have a discrepancy between weak motor skills and high verbal skills. These also affect their visual-spatial skills and social skills. People who have NLD find it difficult to interpret nonverbal cues like expressions, body language, and have low coordination skills.
7. Visual Perceptual
In this specific learning disability, people cannot process information through what their eyes see. For example, if a child cannot copy from what is written on the board, he might have this condition. People who have this visual disability can result from Non-verbal LD or Dysgraphia. They might miss out on simple differences like shapes, letters, and so on. Some of them also cannot hold a pencil tight or have low eye-hand coordination.
There are some specific learning disability characteristics that relate to other disorders. These can be interlinked and you must go through them to understand what they are:
ADHD is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that makes it difficult for someone to stay focused and pay attention. They find it difficult to control their behavior and often become hyperactive.
The condition is not one of the learning disabilities. But as per research, 30% to 50% of children find it difficult to study with ADHD. These two conditions can interact with each other and make it challenging for children to study.
Dyspraxia is a condition where people have no muscle control. It causes problems in movements and coordination. They also have language and speech disorders and can affect the learning process. People with ADHD, dyslexia, and dyscalculia can have dyspraxia.
3. Executive Functioning
When we have inefficiency in our cognitive management system it might be executive functioning. You can face problems in neuropsychological processes due to the disability of the brain. You might face common problems like planning, strategizing, organizing, paying attention, remembering, managing time, and more.
4. Memory problems
To execute work or learn something, we need three types of memory – working, long-term, and short-term memory. We need to use our memory skills to process both non-verbal and verbal information. If there is a deficit in any type of memory, you will not be able to store or retrieve information that you need to carry out chores.
How to cope with a specific learning disability?
Here are things to do when you find out someone close to you has specific learning disability. You might see the symptoms and want to do the following things like:
1. Taking notes
If your child has struggles in speaking, listening, writing, reading, spelling, or calculating, you can take notes. These will add up as information that you have to explain to the specialist.
2. Talking to the teacher
Once you have a list of observations and you know the problems your child is facing, you can speak to his teacher. Tell him/her your concerns and if he/she notices the same in the classroom.
3. Requesting evaluation
You must ask the teacher if she needs an evaluation of a learning disability. It can be a complete educational evaluation that includes reading, writing, language, and solving math. Speak to the teacher to see if the school can help out in the form of a public test. You might also wish to hire a private evaluator who can personalize tests and give your child due attention.
4. Being proactive and trusting the gut
As soon as you detect the learning problem your child is facing, you can arrange a proper intervention. Being a parent, you know your child best and you can evaluate well.
What to do if your child has a specific learning disability?
It is not easy to understand or cope up with the fact that your child has a learning disability. You need to go through some diagnosis to determine his condition. But first, you must understand what these disabilities are like. For example, you need to understand what is dysgraphia, dyslexia, or dyscalculia. Only then, can you relate to the disabilities your child is facing. Once you understand that your child has a specific learning disability you need to:
1. Find an expert
You need a specialist who works with people who have learning disabilities, especially the type your child has. For example, one expert might help out with a reading problem, while another with audibility issues. You need to know whom to turn to.
2. Request tutoring
Your child might require classroom changes that will benefit his growth. You have to offer the right accommodation that solves the problem your child is facing.
3. Create an education plan
Your child probably needs an individual education plan. Either his school or teacher can help you intervene in that. You have to ask the school how they cater to such requirements or listen to the suggestions they can offer.
Facts about specific learning disability
National Institutes of Health states that around 10% to 15% of school children have a learning disability. They can face challenges in:
- Reading aloud
- Poor comprehension
- Struggling to take notes or write
- Difficulty to hold a pencil
- Trouble in understanding lectures
What parents and teachers need to understand
Many times, we get misled into the term ‘disability’. The moment you find out that your child has a learning disability, you might think that he cannot learn at all. Many parents think that their children are lazy or dumb, and they want to avoid books. But most kids who have a learning disability have average intelligence. But their brains process information differently.
If a child receives proper education, they can flourish academically. For example, if you think of a student with dysgraphia, he might have imaginative ideas in his brain, but those might not get him good grades. A potential accommodation for this scenario entails using the speech-to-text technology for writing papers. If there are facilities like this given to kids with a learning disability, they will flourish in academics too.
Treatment of specific learning disability
There is no definitive cure for specific learning disorders. You need to manage your child’s condition throughout his life. Many people who have had specific learning disorder has gone onto becoming skilled learners. They can build strength that is related to learning differences. For example, Albert Einstein had dyslexia, but that didn’t stop him from becoming a brilliant theoretical physicist.
It is important for parents and teachers to detect the condition of a child. If they identify the problem early, it will be more effective for them. They will have less extended problems with schoolwork and also not struggle with low self-esteem.
There are special education services that can help students with learning problems improve writing and reading. They also help teach them math and involve them in intensive and systematic projects. These make the children go through proper challenges and involve brainwork. Education for someone who has a learning disability might involve multimodal teaching. These make use of multiple senses to bring out the best possible.
As per research, the most effective way to treat these disorders are structured and targeted teachings. These help the experts decode the child’s skill and probability to grow.
Students who have learning problems may need accommodation. They need additional time for written and verbal tests. Many of them might be able to use a computer for typing instead of writing manually. With successful interventions, accommodations, and strategies, every child can excel academically. As parents and teachers, you must be able to cater to their requirements accordingly.