What Is a Learning Disability?
Learning disabilities broadly encompass the disorders in which the brain of the individual is “wired” in a way different from the general population. This can result in difficulties with reading, writing, spelling, reasoning and organizing information. Perhaps counterintuitively, persons with learning disabilities are often smarter than their peers. If identified at the right time and with support and intervention, a child with learning disabilities can successfully complete schooling. Aptitude assessment and learning disability testing can help them choose the right careers and come up well in life.
Different Types of Learning Disabilities
Learning disabilities are usually categorized in terms of academic skills.
Reading disability – Dyslexia: Difficulties in recognizing letters and words, understanding the phrases and sentences, reading fluency and vocabulary skills.
Maths difficulty – Discalculia: Difficulties in memorizing and organizing numbers, operation and mathematical signs. Difficulties in counting, remembering number facts and in telling time.
Writing difficulties – Dysgraphia: Unable to copy letters and words, difficulties in maintaining consistency in handwriting and spelling and writing coherence.
Difficulty in fine motor skills – Dyspraxia: Difficulties in eye-hand coordination, balance and manual dexterity.
Language problems – Aphasia: Unable to understand spoken language and poor reading comprehension.
Auditory processing disorder: Problems with comprehension of spoken and written language.
Visual processing disorder: Problems with reading, solving maps, understanding maps, symbols and pictures.
Causes of Learning Disability
Learning disabilities occur due to problems during pregnancy and birth, or they can result from incidents like head injuries after birth. Hereditary factors are also seen, as learning disabilities often run in the family. Nutritional deprivation and exposure to toxic substances like lead also have been known to cause learning disabilities. However, the exact cause of learning disability is not established and most often seem to occur without any apparent cause.
Learning Disabilities Facts
- The National Institutes of Health reports that about one in seven Americans (14%) has some type of learning disability. The incidence of learning disabilities in Indian children is estimated to be between 3-10%.
- Learning disabilities have been seen to run in the family, showing evidence of the presence of a genetic component.
- The diagnosis of a learning disability in a child involves a team of professionals including parent/caregiver, child’s teacher, school counselor, psychologist and pediatrician.
- More than half of learning disabilities are identified and diagnosed during the grades 1 to 4.
- Children with learning disabilities are more likely to be bullied than other children as they seem to be “different”.
- About 12 to 26 percent of students with learning disability score average or above average in math and reading tests, as compared to 50 percent of their peers. About 7 to 23 percent of students with learning disability scored below average compared to 2 percent of their peers.
- Learning disability must not be confused with developmental delay or intellectual disability. A person with learning disability can have a high intelligence quotient.
- Chances of dementia are higher among persons with learning disabilities compared to their peers.
- About 10% to 15% of people with learning disabilities show behaviors like injury to self and others, aggression and destruction.
- Learning disability does not have a cure. Lifelong support and intervention is required to integrate the individual into the society. Academically, they are given special concessions to get through school and university examinations.
- One-third of parents of children with learning disabilities report feelings of isolation, anxiety, pessimism and even guilt, due to the condition of the child.
- High levels of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts are reported twice as much as persons without learning disabilities.
- Parents can support the child with learning disabilities by encouraging their strengths, understanding their difficulties and finding ways to overcome them and focus on the right kind of help they need.