Learning Disabilites

 A neurological condition which affects the brain’s ability to send, receive, and process information is said to be Learning disability. A child with learning disability may have difficulties in reading, writing, listening, speaking, understanding basic mathematics concept and with general comprehension. LD is a group of disorders such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia.

 In India Learning disability incidence ranges from 10 to 12 percent of the school population that means there will be at least 4 children with learning disability will be there on an average in a classroom. The children with this disorder often have issues in the areas of motor skills and in overall ability to self-organize, decision making, understanding and making priorities, planning, attention and problem solving. About 5 percent of school children are affected by learning disabilities. Children with this may also have ADHD

 Learning disability includes conditions such as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia. 

 It does not include children with learning problems which are the result of visual, hearing or motor handicaps, or mental retardation, emotional disturbance or environmental, cultural or economic disadvantages."     

 “Stigma,underachievement and misunderstanding of LD continue to be stubborn barriers for parents and children to overcome. If LD is left unaddressed, millions of individuals risk being left behind, burdened by low self-esteem, subjected to low expectations, and diminished in their ability to pursue their dreams.”

 -James H. Wendorf, Executive Director, National Center for Learning Disability

The signs of LD may vary slightly during each stage of childhood.

Preschool: The child may have some of these difficulties in preschool.

1. Developing speaking skills at normal age (15-18 months) when speech typically develops in children

2. Pronouncing simple words

3. Recognizing and remembering letters and words

4. Learning numbers, rhymes or songs

5. Concentrating on tasks 6. Following and understanding rules and directions

6. Unable to use fine/gross motor skills to do physical tasks.

Primary School: The child may have difficulty in:

1. Understanding and combining letters and sounds

2. Differentiating between similar sounding words or rhyming words

3. Reading, spelling, or writing accurately

4. Distinguishing right from left, for example, confusing 25 with 52, “b” with “d,” “on” with “no,” “s” with “5”

5. Recognizing letters of the alphabet

6. Using correct mathematical symbols for doing maths problems

7. Remembering numbers or facts

8. Learning new skills; the child may be slower than other children of his or her age

9. Memorizing poems or answers

10. Understanding the concept of time

11. Hand-to-eye coordination, being unable to gauge the distance or speed, thus leading to accidents

12. Tasks involving fine motor skills: holding pencil, tying shoe lace, buttoning shirt and so on

13. Keeping track of own possessions like stationery items

Middle School: The child may have difficulty in:

1. Spelling similar words (sea/see, week/weak), usage of prefixes, suffixes

2. Reading aloud, writing assignments, solving word problems in maths (the child may avoid doing tasks involving these skills)

3. Handwriting (child may grip the pencil tightly) 

4. Memorizing or recalling facts

5. Understanding body language and facial expressions

6. Showing appropriate emotional reactions in a learning environment (the child may behave in an aggressive or rebellious way, and react with an excess of emotion) 

High School: The child may have difficulty in:

1. Spelling words accurately (the child may write the same word with different spellings in a single writing assignment)

2. Reading and writing tasks

3. Summarizing, paraphrasing, answering application problems or questions in tests

4. Poor memory

5. Adjusting to new surroundings

6. Understanding abstract concepts

7. Focusing consistently: the child may lack concentration on some tasks, while focusing excessively on others

 While children with learning disabilities have difficulties in some areas of learning, they also have great aptitude, skill and talent in other areas of their interest. Most often, we focus on the disorder and neglect the child's talents or skills. It is important that parents and teachers recognize this hidden potential and encourage the child to pursue them.

Intervention and support options for learning disabilities

 A learning disability cannot be cured. But with timely identification and support , children with learning disabilities can be successful in school. Parents and teachers are the first persons to notice that the child is finding it difficult to read, write or learn. If you think that your child may have a learning disability, seek help from a mental health expert or other trained specialists for the required intervention program or therapy. Early detection can help the child benefit from treatment or therapy. Neglecting the condition may affect the child's ability to cope with the condition. If your child has learning disorder, your child's doctor or school might recommend:

· Extra help of specialized skill trainers and tutors: A reading specialist or other trained professional can train and teach your child certain techniques to improve his or her academic skills. Tutors can also teach children organizational and study skills.

· Individualized Education Program (IEP): Your child's school or a special educator might develop an IEP that will describe how a child can best learn in school.

· Therapy: Depending on the learning disorder, some children might benefit from therapy. For example, speech therapy can help children who have language disabilities. Occupational therapy might help improve the motor skills of a child who has writing problems. 

· Complimentary/alternative therapy: Research shows that alternative therapies like music, art, and dance can benefit children with learning disabilities. Parents and experts need to set goals and assess if the child is improving with the selected mode of intervention and support. If not, alternative methods can be chosen to help the child.