Learning Disabilities (LD) are specific neurological disorders that affect the brain’s ability to store, process, or communicate information. Learning Disabilities interfere with a child’s ability to learn and produce information but do not have anything to do with intelligence. Walt Disney, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, and Albert Einstein are just a few among many famous people that had LDs.
Although Learning Disabilities occur in young children, they are not usually recognized until the child reaches school age. About one-third of children who have LDs also have ADHD, a condition that makes it hard to focus and pay attention. A trained psychologist can help identify a learning disorder and distinguish it from other conditions that can inhibit learning. LDs affect approximately 5% of all children. They are not the same as intellectual deficiencies, Autism Spectrum Disorders or sensory impairment disorders. LDs are not caused by disruptive behaviors or motivational problems and are not the result of cultural, economic, or educational differences.
Some of the more common signs of LD may include:
- Difficulty learning connections between letters and sounds
- Reversing letters (b/d) or transposes words (saw/was)
- Confusing arithmetic signs (+,-,x,÷, =)
- Knowing information the night before but forgets the following day
- Not recognizing words previously learned
- An inability to distinguish between important and unimportant information
- Problems with finding the right word to express an idea
- Writing illegibly
- Poor spelling ability
- Difficulty with planning and organizing materials
- Inconsistent academic performance
- Great difficulty completing homework
A Learning Disability can occur in the following areas of learning:
- Written Expression
- Fine Motor Coordination
- Visual, Auditory, or Kinesthetic Processing
There are many types of LDs that may be similar but have different names. For example, a reading disability in North Carolina may be called dyslexia in other parts of the country.
Learning Disabilities can stem from many factors including complications during pregnancy or delivery, illnesses, early childhood injuries, environmental factors, and heredity. A good overview of the types and causes of LDs can be found at:
What do you do if you suspect a Learning Disability?
- Talk with your child’s classroom teachers and other school personnel about your concerns and discuss whether or not an IEP (Individual Educational Plan) is necessary to individualize academic instruction to meet your child’s educational needs.
- Consult with your pediatrician to rule out any physical, visual or hearing conditions that might be contributing to the learning problems.
- Consult with a psychologist and request testing to make a definitive diagnosis.
The psychologists at Silber Psychological Services provide Psycho-Educational Evaluations or “testing” when a learning disability is suspected. Testing can help determine the specific diagnosis, rule out other issues, and can be used to make recommendations to enhance a child’s ability to succeed. Since there is no one test that can detect a learning disability, a variety of tests are given. The tests required may vary from one region to another, but usually an LD evaluation consists of three parts: a standardized intelligence test to assess cognitive functioning and potential, achievement tests that determine the student’s current academic levels, and a group of tests administered to examine processing abilities and rule out other problems that may be contributing to the student’s academic difficulties or memory.
After testing is completed, a written report explaining the findings is furnished to the parents, including specific recommendations about accommodations that are needed in the school environment. This report often helps provide a “roadmap” for receiving school services that will help the child. If a student has a learning disability, additional services such as tutoring or more intensive programs might be needed. The staff at Silber Psychological Services can help with formulating comprehensive recommendations for both in school and out of school services.
For information pertaining to the federal law, commonly called IDEA, go to www.ldonline.org/
While a diagnosis of a Learning Disability can be initially upsetting, it can also be a relief to know why certain types of learning are so difficult for your child. The earlier the diagnosis, the more quickly it can be treated. Research shows added benefits to early intervention, however, if an LD is identified later in school, it will still be effective. Some students will work with a tutor or a special teacher at school. Others will take classes on study skills or organizational techniques. Some will need an occupational therapist or a speech therapist. Often, our psychologists will suggest strategies that will help your child strengthen their abilities in the particular areas of weakness.
There is no cure for a Learning Disability. However, many types of LDs can be successfully treated, especially with an early diagnosis. Successful intervention can help change the way the brain works and most children learn how to adapt or learn strategies to compensate for their difficulties. With proper diagnosis, many colleges can also provide assistance for students with LDs. Our staff can provide advice regarding the wide range of issues that parents of children with Learning Disabilities face.