Introduction to the Learning Disorders

Learning Disabilities are a general term that a specific type of learning problem. The formal definition of learning disabilities comes from the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). The IDEA is a federal law that regulates how schools provide special education and related services to children with disabilities or learning disabilities. Their definition is “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to speak, read, write, think, spell, or do mathmatical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Learning disorders do not include learning problems that are primarily the result of hearing, visual, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of mental disturbance, or emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.”

As many as 1 out of every 5 people in the United States have a learning disability. In an effort to provide and early diagnosis for children, experts look for how a child is doing in school compared to how well a child could do according to his or her level of intelligence. A few other signs to look for are: difficulty learning the alphabet, ryming words, connecting letters to their sounds, repeat and pause often when reading, messy handwriting, struggle with idea expression when writing, limited vocabulary, math number confusion and reversal, and a difficulty in re-telling a story in sequential order. A learning disability can cause a person to experience difficulty in learning, processing information, and to use certain skills. The skills that are most commonly affected are: reading, writing, listening, speaking, mathematics, and reasoning. Learning disorders vary from person to person. For example, a person with a diffieciency in math may not experience one with reading and writing and vice versa.

There is no “cure” for learning disabilities. People who experience them, though, can learn ways to process the information they intake by using the methods that work for them. If people receive early intervention and assistance in diagnosing and treating their learning disorders, they can be high achievers and highly successful as adults. In assessing intelligence levels in children, researchers believe that learning disorders are caused by individual differences in the way in which the brain functions and processes information. This is due to the fact that children with learning disabilities have average or above average intelligence levels. to a diagnosed when an individual’s achievement on individually administered,standardize tests in reading, mathematics, or written expression is substantially below (discrepancy of more than 2 standard deviations between achievement and IQ) that expected for age, schooling, and level of intelligence. Generally, children diagnosed with a learning disability usually do not reveal serious psychological or sensory impairment. Learning disabilities may carry with them demoralization, low self-esteem, and social skills deficits.

Learning disabilities are often co-morbid with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. When working with learning Disabilities, it is important to bear in mind that, while all children with learning disabilities have learning problems, not all children with learning problems will have a learning disability. Children and adults with a learning disorder have trouble processing sensory information which interferes in their daily activities at school and work. One should note that cultural and ethnic backgrounds should be taken into account.The DSM-IV-TR definition of learning disabilities has been criticized for being too narrow in considering only three academically oriented disorders. The exclusive orientation implies that a learning disorder cannot exist in a comorbid relationship with another disorder.