Learning Difficulties

Problem Solving

If you see that your child is struggling with learning a particular subject, learning to read, or learning math skills, he/she may have a particular learning disability. The best way to help your child succeed to is to determine what type of disability he/she is facing. The symptoms of various disabilities can look similar, and this can cause confusion for parents (and children!).

There are many disablities that often mask themselves as learning disabilities in young children.  I have several main categories of learning disabilities that I have seen in children during my years of experience.  (***This is NOT a formal diagnosis, and if you have concerns about your child, you should have them evaluated by a school or outside psychologist.)

1. Physical disability- This can be wide and varied.  Some examples would be hearing impaired children, visually impaired children, Speech needs, Occupational Therapy needs, or Physcial Therapy needs which result from a myriad of issues and can range from fairly insignificant to severe.  Many times these disabilities are picked up by the pediatrician or are noticed by the parents.  Other physical disabilities include epilepsy, anemia, diabetes, etc.  One mildly overlooked disability also includes color blindness!

2. Visual Perception Disability- There are many ways this disablity can manifest itself.  Some children simply have difficulty copying from the board, or they reverse letters/sounds in words (what many people think of as "dyslexia." they may have more gross motor difficulties such as tying their shoes, hopping, hitting a ball with a bat, etc.  This would include visual motor integration difficulties.  Handwriting and spelling can be a nightmare for parents to work on, because the child struggles to acquire necessary skills in this area.  Children may also have difficulty seeing the differences in colors, shapes, or patterns. 

Another example of this would be from a Highlights magazine, where they have the two pictures and you have to find the differences.  If your child really has trouble seeing the differences, this could also deal with visual perception. 
The specific link to http://www.ldonline.org/ for this disability is here.

3. Auditory Processing Disability- This is where children have difficulty taking in and understanding (analyzing) information received through the ears.  This does NOT have to do with hearing impairment! It is actually the brains ability to receive information taken in through the auditory sense but has nothing to do with the ears, but instead it involves the brain. 

Some examples of this disability in a child include:
-Not understanding or being able to follow directions.
-Unable or has difficulty rhyming words.
-Cannot segment or blend sounds (i.e. if the teachers says the sounds c-a-t, the child cannot put those sounds together to make the word "cat." In the opposite situation, if the teacher says, "break apart the word 'cat' into three sounds, the child cannot complete the task. 
The http://www.ldonline.org/ page for this disability is found here.

4. Visual and Auditory Memory- This involves the two preceding difficulties in relation to the child's ability to hold the information in memory.  For example, a child sees a word on the board, and cannot visually remember it ten seconds laters.  This is the visual example.  The auditory example would be telling them a phone number, and they cannot remember it.  These surround the brain's ability to hold information that has been seen and heard.  Children with these difficulties have MUCH DIFFICULTY reading, writing, and spelling.  This statement cannot be said enough.  If you can't remember how to spell words, you're going to have difficulty writing them.  If you can't read a word, you're going to have difficulty writing and spelling it- These are RECIPROCAL processes.  They are closely intertwined and rely heavily on each other. 
*It should be noted that there are also long and short-term memory disabilties that can be included in this area.

5. Mental Disability- Please DO NOT freak out when you read this.  As hard as it is to believe, many children suffer from various mental disabilities that can range from slight to severe just as adults.  For example, anxiety and Attention Defecit Disorder can look very similar in the classroom, but come from very different sources.  Some of these mental disabilities include:
-Anxiety
-ADD or ADHD
-Autism (slight to severe)
    -PDD (an autism spectrum disorder)
    -Asperger's Syndrom (an autism spectrum disorder)
-Depression
-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
-Phobias
-Tourette Syndrome
-I have rarely/never seen these diagnoses: schizophrenia, bipolar, or other personality disorders.

6. Mental Retardation/Delays-  This is something that can also be slight to severe.  This can result from many things.  In my own experience, I have seen these occur from:
-Lack of oxygen at birth or any birth complication.
-A genetic disorder (for example, Sertoli Cell X syndrome is one of many genetic disorders that involves the X chromosome in males.  The more X chromosomes, the more mental disabilities are usually observed).
-Brain injury
-Reported accident/injury - (I once had a student who had ingested kersosene as a small child by accident which resulted in slight brain damage - amazing that it was only slight!).
-Baby Shaking Syndrome
The severity of these disorders is usually determined by an educational agency within the state/county where you live.  There are trained psychologists who aid in diagnosing these disabilities. 


The best resource on the web for helping parents understand learning disabilities is:

http://www.ldonline.org/
This resource helps parents understand the various disabilities, how they are diagnosed, and how to help children cope with an LD. Please visit the site if you have any concerns about your child.