Understanding Learning Disorders

Learning disorders or learning disabilities are an umbrella term for a wide variety of learning problems.  A learning disorder is a neurological disorder.  In simple terms, it results from a difference in the way a child’s brain is “wired.”  Learning disabilities interfere with a child’s ability to store, process, or produce information.  A child with a learning disorder does not have a problem with intelligence or motivation.  They are not “dumb” or “lazy.”  In fact, children with learning disorders are just as smart or smarter than their peers.  Instead, children with learning disorders see, hear, and understand things differently than their peers.  Thus, causing them to struggle with reading, writing, speaking, spelling, organizing information, and/or reasoning.  Children with learning disorders may also struggle with attention, memory, coordination, social skills, and emotional maturity.  In order to be successful, a child with a learning disorder will need to be taught in ways that are tailored to his or her unique learning styles.

Types of Learning Disorders

The most common types of learning disorders are listed below:

  • Auditory Processing Disorder – Difficulty hearing differences between sounds
  • Dyscalculia – Difficulty with math
  • Dysgraphia – Difficulty with writing
  • Dyslexia – Difficulty with reading
  • Dysphasia/Aphasia – Difficulty with language
  • Dyspraxia (Sensory Integration Disorder) – Difficulty with fine motor skills
  • Visual Processing Disorder – Difficulty interpreting visual information

Signs of a Learning Disorder

Learning disorders are quite common.  In fact, 2.4 million students in the United States have been diagnosed with a specific learning disability and are receiving services under IDEA.  This means approximately 41% of students receive special education services.

It may not always be easy to identify a learning disorder because learning disorders look different in each child.  There is not a single symptom or profile that you can look to as proof of a problem.  However, if you suspect that your child may be suffering from a learning disorder it is very important to get him or her help as soon as possible.  The quicker you move forward, the better your child’s chances of reaching his or her full potential.

Causes of Learning Disorders

Experts are not quite sure what causes learning disorders.  Some believe that learning disorders may be hereditary because they tend to run in families.  Others believe it may be a result of problems during pregnancy and birth, such as low birth weight, lack of oxygen, drug and alcohol use during pregnancy, and premature or prolonged labor.  Incidents after birth, such as nutritional deprivation, head injuries, and exposure to toxic substances are also believed to possibly lead to learning disabilities.

Getting Help for a Child with a Learning Disorder

A learning disability is a lifelong issue and cannot be cured or fixed. However, with early intervention and the right support, your child can and will be successful in life.  Most often, parents are the first to notice signs of a learning disorder in their child because something just does not seem right to them. Finding out more about learning disorders, in general, is the first step in paving the way for your child’s success in school and beyond. By taking action and seeking help, you are ensuring that your child gets the proper assistance to overcome his or her classroom challenges.

It may not be easy to know where to start to get help. We suggest you begin with the Heads Up Checkup symptom checker. It will screen for most of the common learning disorders including reading, writing, and math.

Specialists in the field can help your family by pinpointing and diagnosing the problem. It is also important to work with your child’s school and make necessary accommodations for your child. You, as a parent, are also a key figure in encouraging and nurturing your child’s strengths, knowing his or her weaknesses, and working with professionals to learn more about specific strategies to help deal with your child’s specific challenges.

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