What is a learning disability?
Learning disability is a general term that describes conditions that affect the brain's ability to receive, process, analyze, or store information. These problems can make it difficult for a student to learn as quickly as someone who isn't affected by learning disabilities.
There are many kinds of learning disabilities. Most students affected by them have more than one kind. Certain kinds of learning disabilities can interfere with a person's ability to concentrate or focus and can cause someone's mind to wander too much. Other learning disabilities can make it difficult for a student to read, write, spell, or solve math problems.
The way our brains process information is extremely complex — it's no wonder things can get messed up sometimes. Take the simple act of looking at a picture, for example, Our brains not only have to form the lines into an image, they also have to recognize what the image stands for, relate that image to other facts stored in our memories, and then store this new information.
It's the same thing with speech — we have to recognize the words, interpret their meaning, and figure out the significance of the statement to us. Many of these activities take place in separate parts of the brain, and it's up to our minds to link them all together.
The behavioral condition of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often associated with learning disabilities because people with ADHD also might have a hard time focusing enough to learn and study. Students with ADHD are often easily distracted and have trouble concentrating. They may also be excessively active or have trouble controlling their impulses. You can read more about ADHD here:
If you have a learning disability, you're not alone. Nearly 4 million school-age kids and teens have learning disabilities, and at least 20% of them have a type of disorder that makes it difficult to focus.
Did you know that Albert Einstein couldn't read until he was nine? Walt Disney, General George Patton, and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller had trouble reading all their lives. Whoopi Goldberg, Thomas Edison, Charles Schwab and many others had learning disabilities which couldn’t affect their ultimate success.
Parents can help children with learning disabilities achieve such success by encouraging their strengths, knowing their weaknesses, understanding the educational system, working with professionals, personal tutors and also learning about strategies for dealing with specific learning disabilities.
Common learning disabilities
- Dyslexia – a language-based disability in which a person has trouble understanding written words. It may also be referred to as 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.
Causes of learning disability
No one is exactly sure what causes learning disabilities. But researchers do have some theories as to why they develop, including:
· Genetic influences. Experts have noticed that learning disabilities tend to run in families and they think that heredity could play a role. However, researchers are still debating whether learning disabilities are, in fact, genetic, or if they show up in families because kids learn and model what their parents do.
· Brain development. Some experts think that learning disabilities can be traced to brain development, both before and after birth. For this reason, problems such as low birth weight, lack of oxygen, or premature birth may have something to do with learning disabilities. Young children who receive head injuries may also be at risk of developing learning disabilities.
· Environmental impacts. Infants and young kids are susceptible to environmental toxins (poisons). For example, you may have heard how lead (which can be found in some old homes in the form of lead paint or lead water pipes) is sometimes thought to contribute to learning disabilities. Poor nutrition early in life also may lead to learning disabilities later in life.
Signs of a Learning Disability
While there is no one “sign” that a person has a learning disability, there are certain clues. A child probably won’t show all of these signs, or even most of them. However, if a child shows a number of these problems, then parents and the teacher should consider the possibility that the child has a learning disability.
He or she:
• have trouble learning the alphabet, rhyming words, or connecting letters to their sounds;
• make many mistakes when reading aloud, and repeat and pause often;
• may not understand what he or she reads;
• have real trouble with spelling;
• have very messy handwriting or hold a pencil awkwardly;
• struggle to express ideas in writing;
• learn language late and have a limited vocabulary;
• have trouble remembering the sounds that letters make or hearing slight differences between words;
• have trouble understanding jokes, comic strips, and sarcasm;
• have trouble following directions;
• mispronounce words or use a wrong word that sounds similar;
• have trouble organizing what he or she wants to say or not be able to think of the word he or she needs for writing or conversation;
• may not follow the social rules of conversation, such as taking turns, and may stand too close to the listener;
• may confuse math symbols and misread numbers;
• may not be able to retell a story in order (what happened first, second, third); or
• may not know where to begin a task or how to go on from there.
If a child has unexpected problems learning to read, write, listen, speak, or do math, then teachers and parents may want to investigate more. The same is true if the child is struggling to do any one of these skills. The child may need to be evaluated to see if he or she has a learning disability.
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