“I am not gifted. When I read, the words twist, twirl across the page. When they settle,it is too late. The class has already moved on”.

Learning Disability is a condition that is quite prevalent in today’s times. Children are facing difficulties and since many people are either not aware or do not understand the condition, they label the child as being mischievous, naughty, troublesome and blame the child for not doing well academically, not trying enough and not putting in enough efforts. Learning Disability is a condition which has to be recognized, diagnosed, understood, treated and managed like any other condition.

Learning Disorders aren’t the same as mental or physical disabilities, and don’t reflect a child’s intelligence. Instead, learning disorders affect a child’s ability to complete a task or use certain skills, particularly in school.

Learning Disabilities are disorders that affect one’s ability in the domains of spoken or written language, mathematical calculation, attention, or the coordination of movements. They can occur in children who are young but are usually not recognized until a child reaches school age.

SYMPTOMS:

The symptoms of Learning Disability are as follows:

  • Difficulty in reading, he or she may read inaccurately or slowly and with effort.
  • Understanding the meaning of what is read.
  • Difficulty in understanding and following instructions.
  • Trouble with spellings.
  • Has trouble with math and mathematical reasoning.
  • Trouble remembering what someone just told him or her.
  • Has trouble with writing and in written expression.
  • Difficulty in doing or resisting homework or activities that consist of writing, reading and/ or math.
  • Lacking coordination while walking, playing sports or in certain skills.
  • Understanding numbers or calculation.
  • Difficulty in understanding the concept of time.
  • Easily loses or misplaces homework, school books or other items.
  • Having emotional reactions, acting out in anger or showing defiance while studying or engaging in any academic activity.
  • Difficulty in understanding and interpreting non-verbal cues and facial expressions.
  • Difficulty in paying attention, planning and organizing.

TYPES OF LEARNING DISABILITY:

Dyslexia: Dyslexia is a Learning Disorder that affects how a child understands language. Children with Dyslexia have trouble with identifying speech sounds, reading, decoding letters and words. Although Dyslexia affects the areas of the brain that process language, children or individuals who have Dyslexia have normal intelligence and with the correct intervention, they can succeed in school. Individuals who have Dyslexia may also have difficulty in conveying and expressing themselves and their thoughts verbally and they may even face difficulty during conversations, wherein, they are required to put their thoughts together.

Dyspraxia: Dyspraxia is a part of Learning Disorder, wherein, the child’s or individual’s motor skills and movement is affected. The four main skills that are affected when it comes to Dyspraxia are as follows:

  • Fine motor skills.
  • Gross motor skills.
  • Motor planning.
  • Coordination.

A child who has Dyspraxia has trouble with movement and coordination, he or she may have trouble holding things, tying their shoelaces and they may even tend to bump into things. The child may also have speech difficulties, he or she may also be sensitive to light, touch, taste or smell and they may also have trouble with eye movements.

Dyscalculia: Dyscalculia is a Learning Disorder that affects a child’s or an individual’s ability to do math. Children who are young have difficulty in learning to count and recognizing numbers whereas when a child gets older, the child may have trouble in solving basic math problems and equations. The following are the skills which are affected when it comes to Dyscalculia:

  • Understanding how numbers work and relate to each other.
  • Calculating math problems.
  • Memorizing basic calculations.
  • Using math symbols.
  • Understanding word problems.
  • Organizing and recording information while solving a math problem.

Dysgraphia: Dysgraphia is a Specific Learning Disability that impacts a child’s written expression. When it comes to Dysgraphia, a child’s writing abilities are affected wherein, they have trouble with spelling, poor handwriting (unclear, irregular, or inconsistent handwriting often with different slants, shapes, upper- and lower-case letters, and cursive and print styles), trouble putting down their thoughts on paper and they also tend to write or copy things slowly. Dysgraphia is a problem related to the nervous system that impacts one’s fine motor skills that are required to write. Dysgraphia among children also makes it difficult for them to think and write simultaneously. The other signs and symptoms include:

  • Cramped grip, which may lead to a sore hand.
  • Difficulty spacing things out on paper or within margins (poor spatial planning).
  • Frequent erasing.
  • Inconsistency in letter and word spacing.
  • Poor spelling, including unfinished words or missing words or letters.
  • Unusual wrist, body, or paper position while writing.

Auditory Processing Disorder: Auditory Processing Disorder is also known as Central Auditory Processing which is the reduced or impaired ability to identify, comprehend and discriminate sounds even though the individual’s hearing is not impaired. The symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder are as follows:

  • Difficulty with learning to read.
  • Difficulty in distinguishing sounds from background noise.
  • Trouble with following spoken directions or instruction, particularly if there are multiple steps.
  • Difficulty with telling the difference between similar sounding words.
  • Trouble remembering things they’ve heard.
  • Trouble in following conversations.
  • Difficulty in knowing where a sound came from.
  • Trouble with listening to music.
  • Difficulty in understanding what people say, especially in a loud place or if more than one person is talking.
Visual Processing Disorder: Visual Processing Disorder is when a child or an individual has trouble interpreting visual information. He or she may have a hard time with reading or discriminating between objects that look similar. Individuals with a visual processing disorder may have trouble with hand-eye coordination.
Nonverbal Learning Disorder: Nonverbal Learning Disorder involves difficulties that are present in visual-spatial skills, visual-motor skills, and other skills necessary in social or academic functioning. The child has difficulty in receiving and interpreting nonverbal cues of communication like body language and expressions. The symptoms of Nonverbal Learning Disorder are as follows:
  • Interpreting facial expressions and nonverbal cues in social interactions.
  • Using language appropriately in social situations.
  • Physical coordination.
  • Fine motor skills, such as writing.
  • Attention, planning and organizing.
  • Higher-level reading comprehension or written expression, usually appearing in later grade school.

Apraxia of Speech: Childhood Apraxia of Speech is a disorder in which a child has difficulty making accurate movements when speaking and has difficulty in saying what he or she intends to say. When it comes to Apraxia of speech, the speech muscles aren't weak, but they don't function normally as the brain has difficulty in directing and/or coordinating the movements. The symptoms include:

  • Difficulty moving smoothly from one sound, syllable or word to another.
  • Groping movements with the jaw, lips or tongue to make the correct movement for speech sounds.
  • Vowel distortions, such as attempting to use the correct vowel, but saying it incorrectly.
  • Using the wrong stress in a word while pronouncing certain words.
  • Using equal emphasis on all syllables. 
  • Separation of syllables, such as putting a pause or gap between syllables.
  • Inconsistency, such as making different errors when trying to say the same word a second time.
  • Difficulty imitating simple words.
  • Inconsistent voicing errors, such assaying "down" instead of "town".

CAUSES:

  1. Genetics: Genetics can play a role when it comes to Learning Disability. Children/individuals are more likely to have a learning disorder if their first-degree relatives like a parent or a sibling also suffered from the same.
  2. Psychological Trauma: The risk of Learning Disability can be increased if one has experienced psychological trauma or abuse early in their childhood which may have a negative impact on the development of their brain.
  3. Prenatal and Neonatal Risks: A complication during the Prenatal or Neonatal stage can increase the risk of Learning Disability. Exposure to substances like alcohol, drugs during the pregnancy, premature birth, inadequate growth in the uterus and low birth weight can increase the risk of Learning Disability in children.
  4. Physical Trauma: Physical Trauma like an injection in the nervous system or a head injury can also increase the possibilities of learning Disability.
  5. Exposure To Toxic Environments: If a child has been exposed to high levels of toxins like lead then it may play a role in the development of Learning Disability. 

TREATMENT:

Help The Child: A child who has Learning Disability, needs all the extra help he/she can manage to get. It is important to understand the child and where he/she is facing difficulties and depending on the area in which the child has trouble, effective aid can be provided with the help of teachers and specialists. Recognize the strengths of the child and use them to his/her advantage, for example; if the child is a visual learner, then teaching or helping them study with the help of visual cues would be the most fruitful method to help the child learn.

Certificate and Concession: Many boards across India offer certain concessions to individuals who have Learning Disability. In order to avail these concessions, it is essential to get the child tested and acquire a certificate for Learning Disability which is recognized by the government.

Individualized Education Program: An individualized Education program (IEP) is set up by special educators for the child. By building a specialized plan for the child, he/she can work on their strengths so that they can flourish in school and he/she can also learn to make up for their shortcomings.

Therapy and Therapeutic Programs: When dealing with Learning Disabilities, the child needs to be provided with the right and effective therapy that can help the child to the best he/she can. Providing Occupational Therapy or seeking the help of a reading specialist or a speech therapist would be very helpful for the child. In case of any underlying psychological conditions like Depression or Anxiety, therapy with the help of a psychiatrist or psychologist would also prove to be helpful.

Medication: In certain children or individuals there may be an underlying psychological condition which needs to be treated. Treating and managing an underlying condition like Depression, Anxiety or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) will be effective. If the individual has ADHD, prescribing medicines for improving concentration would prove to be useful.

Providing Aid and Accommodation: A child with Learning Disability needs extra help, certain aids and accommodations to help the child to do better in school. Whether it is providing extra time to complete assignments or tests, seeking after school classes from the teacher so the child gets individualized attention, reducing the number of mathematical problems in tests and assignments, testing the child verbally if he/she has difficulty in writing and providing audiotapes or audio books to help the child in reading.

POINTS TO REMEMBER:

Understand your child’s condition: Having Learning Disability can be quite daunting for the child. He/she may want to study and do things but may not be able to do so because of the condition and this can prove to be frustrating for the child. In this case, understanding your child’s condition and properly diagnosing the child will not only prove helpful to the child but also to the parents who might also be clueless.

Recognize his/ her strengths: A child having Learning Disability does not mean that he/she is not intelligent. It is important to understand that the child may flourish if they are taught in the way that would help them the most. Recognize your child’s strengths and build up on them for effective results. If the child is a visual learner then encourage the child to learn visually with the help of visual cues and if he/ she would learn better with audio aid then that is the way to go.

Be patient: It is of utmost importance that as a parent one be patient with the child. The child in this situation is clueless and may not be able to fully understand his condition in the beginning, in this situation being patient through all the roadblocks and bumps would prove to be very helpful to the child.

Encourage the child: Having Learning Disability can impact a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence. It is important to encourage the child to try and keep trying. Criticizing or shouting would not prove to be helpful, the child may lose interest and not want to try. Hence, it is essential to provide encouragement, motivate and appreciate his/her efforts from time to time.

"I want to catch the words one day. I want to hold them then blow gently, watch them float right out of my hands” – Jacqueline Woodson.