Identifying Learning Disabilities


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Fifteen percent of America’s population suffers from learning disability of one kind or the other according to the National Institute of Health. This means that in every class of twenty children, three are learning disabled. There has been a growing recognition of learning disabilities and with it, ways of identifying learning disabilities.

But in dealing with the problem of learning disabilities and coming up with appropriate strategies to help these children, it is important to first establish the differences between learning disabilities and what learning disability is and what causes it. The treatment must be perfectly appropriate to the diagnosis. It often happens that children with developmental or emotional problems get diagnosed along with learning disabled children, and so they are denied the proper remediation needed by them. This shows how critical identifying learning disabilities is.

The first task in identifying learning disabilities is to distinguish between learning disability and difficulty. Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between the two.

All of us experience difficulty while trying to learn something new, because we are not adept at all skills. But learning disability is a disorder which shows itself by presenting significant difficulties in the acquisition of reading, speaking, listening, writing, math or reasoning abilities.

It is presumed that learning disorders or disabilities are caused by a discrepancy in the central nervous system. A problem crops up with interpreting what is heard or seen and linking the information coming from the different parts of a person’s brain.

If a child consistently performs poorly in his/her academics, several questions should be asked before identifying learning disabilities and the child is diagnosed.

# Is the child’s environment sufficiently enriching and supportive, giving him the necessary stimulation, encouragement and motivation for learning, i.e. books, materials and other resources to aid learning?

# Is the child’s nutrition sufficiently balanced? The lack of a particular mineral or vitamin, which may have been overlooked, can affect the proper functioning and development of the child’s body and the nervous system.

# Can it be the child is just developing at his/her own pace? All children don’t learn everything at a similar pace and developmental charts are to be used only as a guide.

# Is the child’s emotional health okay? If he/she has some subtle hidden anxiety, fear or lacks self confidence, it can interfere with their behavior and learning.

# Is the method of teaching suitable for the child? For not every child can absorb information in a similar way. If a concept is explained in a different way, will it help the child in his understanding?

# If the problems persist, a comprehensive investigation should be conducted on the child, by consulting his/her teachers, school counselor, the child’s doctor, educational psychologist, neurologist and speech therapist. The child’s behavior has to be observed in a long term and regular manner.

Persistence, support and patience are absolute essentials when identifying learning disabilities in a child who is functioning outside the usual norms.


Types of Learning Disabilities