Learning disabilities, or learning disorders, are an umbrella term for a wide variety of learning problems. A learning disability is not a problem with intelligence or motivation. Kids with learning disabilities aren’t lazy or dumb. In fact, most are just as smart as everyone else. Their brains are simply wired differently. These differences affects how they receive and process information. Simply put, children and adults with learning disabilities see, hear, and understand things differently. This can lead to trouble with learning new information and skills, and putting them to use.
The most common types of learning disabilities involve problems with reading, writing, math, reasoning, listening, and speaking. Children with learning disabilities can, and do, succeed. It can be tough to face the possibility that anyone child has a learning disorder. No parents want to see their children suffer. We may wonder what it could mean for our child’s future, or worry about how our kid will make it through school. Perhaps you’re concerned that by calling attention to your child’s learning problems he or she might be labeled “slow” or assigned to a less challenging class.
But the important thing to remember is that most kids with learning disabilities are just as smart as everyone else. They just need to be taught in ways that are tailored to their unique learning styles. By learning more about learning disabilities in general, and your child’s learning difficulties in particular, you can help pave the way for success at school and beyond. Signs and symptoms of learning disabilities and disorders Learning disabilities look very different from one child to another. One child may struggle with reading and spelling, while another loves books but can’t understand math.
Still another child may have difficulty understanding what others are saying or communicating out loud. The problems are very different, but they are all learning disorders. It’s not always easy to identify learning disabilities. Because of the wide variations, there is no single symptom or profile that you can look to as proof of a problem. However, some warning signs are more common than others at different ages. If you’re aware of what they are, you’ll be able to catch a learning disorder early and quickly take steps to get your child help.
The following checklist lists some common red flags for learning disorders. Remember that children who don’t have learning disabilities may still experience some of these difficulties at various times. The time for concern is when there is a consistent unevenness in your child’s ability to master certain skills. Preschool signs and symptoms of learning disabilities Problems pronouncing words Trouble finding the right word Difficulty rhyming Trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, days of the week Difficulty following directions or learning routines
Difficulty controlling crayons, pencils, and scissors or coloring within the lines Trouble with buttons, zippers, snaps, learning to tie shoes Ages 5-9 signs and symptoms of learning disabilities Trouble learning the connection between letters and sounds Unable to blend sounds to make words Confuses basic words when reading Consistently misspells words and makes frequent reading errors Trouble learning basic math concepts Difficulty telling time and remembering sequences Slow to learn new skills Ages 10-13 signs and symptoms of learning disabilities
Difficulty with reading comprehension or math skills Trouble with open-ended test questions and word problems Dislikes reading and writing; avoids reading aloud Spells the same word differently in a single document Poor organizational skills (bedroom, homework, desk is messy and disorganized) Trouble following classroom discussions and expressing thoughts aloud Poor handwriting Paying attention to developmental milestones can help you identify learning disorders Paying attention to normal developmental milestones for toddlers and preschoolers is very important.
Early detection of developmental differences may be an early signal of a learning disability and problems that are spotted early can be easier to correct. A developmental lag might not be considered a symptom of a learning disability until your child is older, but if you recognize it when your child is young, you can intervene early. You know your child better than anyone else does, so if you think there is a problem, it doesn’t hurt to get an evaluation. You can also ask your pediatrician for a developmental milestones chart. Problems with reading, writing, and math
Learning disabilities are often grouped by school-area skill set. If your child is in school, the types of learning disorders that are most conspicuous usually revolve around reading, writing, or math. Learning disabilities in reading (dyslexia) There are two types of learning disabilities in reading. Basic reading problems occur when there is difficulty understanding the relationship between sounds, letters and words. Reading comprehension problems occur when there is an inability to grasp the meaning of words, phrases, and paragraphs. Signs of reading difficulty include problems with:
letter and word recognition understanding words and ideas reading speed and fluency general vocabulary skills Learning disabilities in math (dyscalculia) Learning disabilities in math vary greatly depending on the child’s other strengths and weaknesses. A child’s ability to do math will be affected differently by a language learning disability, or a visual disorder or a difficulty with sequencing, memory or organization. A child with a math–based learning disorder may struggle with memorization and organization of numbers, operation signs, and number “facts” (like 5+5=10 or 5×5=25).
Children with math learning disorders might also have trouble with counting principles (such as counting by 2s or counting by 5s) or have difficulty telling time. Learning disabilities in writing (dysgraphia) Learning disabilities in writing can involve the physical act of writing or the mental activity of comprehending and synthesizing information. Basic writing disorder refers to physical difficulty forming words and letters. Expressive writing disability indicates a struggle to organize thoughts on paper. Symptoms of a written language learning disability revolve around the act of writing.
They include problems with: neatness and consistency of writing accurately copying letters and words spelling consistency writing organization and coherence Other types of learning disabilities and disorders Reading, writing, and math aren’t the only skills impacted by learning disorders. Other types of learning disabilities involve difficulties with motor skills (movement and coordination), understanding spoken language, distinguishing between sounds, and interpreting visual information. Learning disabilities in motor skills (dyspraxia)
Motor difficulty refers to problems with movement and coordination whether it is with fine motor skills (cutting, writing) or gross motor skills (running, jumping). A motor disability is sometimes referred to as an “output” activity meaning that it relates to the output of information from the brain. In order to run, jump, write or cut something, the brain must be able to communicate with the necessary limbs to complete the action. Signs that your child might have a motor coordination disability include problems with physical abilities that require hand-eye coordination, like holding a pencil or buttoning a shirt.
Learning disabilities in language (aphasia/dysphasia) Language and communication learning disabilities involve the ability to understand or produce spoken language. Language is also considered an output activity because it requires organizing thoughts in the brain and calling upon the right words to verbally explain something or communicate with someone else. Signs of a language-based learning disorder involve problems with verbal language skills, such as the ability to retell a story and the fluency of speech, as well as the ability to understand the meaning of
words, parts of speech, directions, etc. Auditory and visual processing problems: the importance of the ears and eyes The eyes and the ears are the primary means of delivering information to the brain, a process sometimes called “input. ” If either the eyes or the ears aren’t working properly, learning can suffer. Auditory processing disorder – Professionals may refer to the ability to hear well as “auditory processing skills” or “receptive language. ” The ability to hear things correctly greatly impacts the ability to read, write and spell.
An inability to distinguish subtle differences in sound, or hearing sounds at the wrong speed make it difficult to sound out words and understand the basic concepts of reading and writing. Visual processing disorder – Problems in visual perception include missing subtle differences in shapes, reversing letters or numbers, skipping words, skipping lines, misperceiving depth or distance, or having problems with eye–hand coordination. Professionals may refer to the work of the eyes as “visual processing. ” Visual perception can affect gross and fine motor skills, reading comprehension, and math.