Other Helpful Information on Learning Disabilities

A really good website for parents who have a child with learning disabilities or who might be diagnosed with some sort of adult learning disability is WETA’s website, http://www.ldonline.org/. This website lists many things that parents can do for their children if they are diagnosed with a learning disability and help them understand what a learning disability actually is.

Some facts the WETA gives on learning disabilites are as follows (2010):

  • about 15% of the US population has been diagnosed with some type of learning disability
  • the most common type of learning disability is a reading disorder
  • a genetic link has been discovered in learning disabilites
  • individuals who have been diagnosed with autism, mental retardation, deafness, blindness, or behavioral disorders do not neccessiarily have a learning disability
  • individuals who have been diagnosed with ADHD do not always have a learning disability; however, they are often comorbid with one another

According to Horowitz, we know that there are some variations in brain development that are related to some reading disabilites. Using brain imaging tools, we can see that there are a number of regions and areas in the brain associated with certain skills that support the development of reading. Some learning disabilities can be traced back to prenatal dispositions such as fetal alcohol and cocaine exposure and possible maternal cigerette smoking. While Horowitz claims there is a strong genetic component in families, he also claims that learning disabilites can be influenced by environmental factors (2007).

Parents are usually the first to notice that their child may have some sort of learning disability. Parents should be aware of the following list that describes some common signs that a child may have a learning disability. Parents should remember that children may exhibit some symptoms of a learning deficiency occasionally, which is normal. Most children struggle with one concept or another at any given time, but a specific criteria must be met in order for the classification of a learning disability to be made. According to WETA (2010), a parent should seek assistance if their child exhibits several of these symptoms over a long period of time:

  • Preschool aged children
    • the child learns to speak later than normal.
    • the child’s fine motor skills are be slow to develop
    • the child has difficulty in the pronunciation of words
    • the child has a slow vocabulary growth and often has a difficult time finding the right words
    • the child shows difficulty in learning numbers, patterns, days of the week, and the alphabet
    • the child is extremely restless
    • the child becomes easily distracted
    • the child shows difficulties when interacting with peers
    • the child has trouble following directions or even a routine that is set in place
  • School-aged children, grades Pre-K through 4
    • the child shows difficulty connecting letters to their sounds
    • the child shows confusion in basic words such as eat, want, play…
    • the child consistently makes reading and spelling errors, including letter reversals (b to d or vice versa), inverting letters (m/w), transpositions (left/felt) and substitutions (house/home). The child may also transpose number sequences as well as words.
    • the child is slow to recall facts
    • the child is slow to learn new skills and may depend greatly on memorization
    • the child is impulsive and have problems when it comes to planning
    • the child holds their writing utensil in an unstable way
    • the child shows problems when it comes to learn about time
    • the child shows poor coordination, often unaware of their surroundings, and may also come across as ‘clumsy’
  • School-aged children, grades 5-8
    • the child reverses letter sequences, such as soiled/soild and left/felt
    • the child has difficultly learning the prefixes and suffixes of a word as well as the root word
    • the child avoids reading aloud when given the opportunity to choose
    • the child shows difficulty with word problems
    • the child’s handwriting may be poor
    • the child exhibits an awkward way while holding a writing utensil
    • the child avoids writing assignments all together
    • the child is slow to recall facts
    • the child has some problems in regards to making friends
    • the child has difficulty understanding body language and facial expressions
  • High school students through adulthood
    • the individual continues to have issues in regards to spelling
    • the individual avoids reading and writing tasks all together
    • the individual shows some difficulties when summarizing
    • the individual has problems in regard to answering open-ending questions
    • the individual has weak memory recall
    • the individual works slowly
    • the individual shows difficulties adjusting to newer settings
    • the invididual has difficulty understanding abstract concepts
    • the individual has issues directing their attention correctly. For example, they may give too much attention to certain details or they might show too little attention to details
    • the individual misreads information

According to NCLD, building good self-esteem is a great way to improve job mastery skills and earn success in school. It is important to know that having a learning disability does not necessary decrease one’s self-esteem, but rather the characteristics that some individuals with learning disabilies exhibit may affect their self-esteem. Some of these characteristics may include:

  • communication style and social awareness: the individual may not be able to understand clues as to when it is appropriate to participate or not, as well as not understanding how their own behavior can affect others
  • self knowledge: individuals may have issues understanding their own strengths and weaknesses as well as evaluating whether their behavior is appropriate in social situations.
  • language: individuals may have issues in regards to expressing their thoughts in a verbal manner
  • self-perceived social status: they have have issues in regards to understanding how they fit in in a group of people. This may cause the individual to become passive and withdraw from social situations, fearing that they will stick out in the crowd.
  • Self-perceived ability to affect change: the individual may believe that they have no control over their own successes and that luck or fate is responsible for the outcome of sitations rather than their own actions (2009).

The NCLD also gives a list of how parents can help children with learning disabilities who are showing some of the above characteristics by doing some of the following:

  • being empathetic to the child (seeing the world through their eyes)
  • communicate with respect–be sure not to interrupt them when they are talking and be sure to answer their questions
  • give undivided attention to the child
  • accept and love the child for who they are
  • give the child a chance to contribute–this lets the child know that you trust them and also give them a sense of responsibility
  • treat mistakes as learning experiences
  • emphasize their strengths and help give them a sense of accomplisment
  • allow the child to solve problems and make decisions
  • discipline to teach and do not try to intimidate the child (2009)