What is Learning Disability (LD)?
A learning disability is a neurological condition that interferes with an individual’s ability to store, process, or produce information.
Learning disabilities can affect one’s ability to read, write, speak, spell, compute math, reason and also affect an individual’s attention, memory, coordination, social skills and emotional maturity. With the right support and interventions, however, children and adults with learning disabilities can succeed in school and life. Recognizing, accepting and understanding your learning disability are the first steps to success.
Learning disabilities often run in families. They should not be confused with other disabilities such as intellectual disabilities, autism, deafness, blindness, and behavioral disorders. None of these conditions are learning disabilities.
Because learning disabilities cannot be seen, they often go undetected. Recognizing a learning disability is even more difficult because the severity and characteristics vary. Parents are often the first to notice that, “something doesn’t seem right.” But sometimes knowing what to do and where to find help can be confusing.
A neuropsychological exam or psychoeducational assessment can clarify an LD diagnosis, identify patterns of atypical learning and determine appropriate treatment.
Signs of Learning Disability
It is normal for parents to observe one of these signs in their children from time to time. But if your child consistently exhibits several of these signs, it is important for you to take action to get them the help that they needs.
Have you noticed that your child has:
- pronunciation problems?
- difficulty finding the right word?
- difficulty making rhymes?
- trouble learning numbers, alphabet, days of the week, colors and shapes?
- trouble concentrating?
- trouble interacting with peers?
- difficulty following directions or learning routines?
- difficulty controlling pencil, crayons, scissors?
- difficulty with buttoning, zipping, typing skills?
Does your child:
- have trouble learning the connection between letters and sounds?
- confuse basic words? (run, eat, want)
- make consistent reading and spelling errors including letter reversals (b/d, inversions (m/w), transpositions (felt/left), and substitutions (house/home)?
- experience difficulty learning basic math concepts?
- have trouble learning about time?
- take a long time to learn new skills?
- have trouble remembering facts?
Is your child having difficulty:
- with reading comprehension or math skills?
- with letter sequences? (soiled for solid, left for felt)
- with prefixes, suffixes, root words and other spelling strategies?
- organizing his/her bedroom, notebook, papers, and desk?
- keeping up with papers or assignments?
- with handwriting?
- with time management?
- understanding oral discussions and expressing thoughts aloud?
High School and Adults
Is your child having difficulty:
- spelling the same word differently in a single document.
- taking on reading or writing tasks.
- with open-ended questions on tests.
- with memory skills.
- adapting skills from one setting to another.
- with a slow work pace.
- grasping abstract concepts.
- focusing on details.
- misreading information
It can be hard to acknowledge that your child is having difficulty in school let alone a potential learning disability. Perhaps you have worried that by calling attention to your child’s learning problems they might be labeled “slow” or a “discipline problem,” or sent to the wrong class.
What many parents and their children don’t realize is that most kids with learning disabilities are just as intelligent as their peers. Their brains are simply wired differently for learning. They need to be taught in ways that are best adapted to how they process information.
Parents can help children with learning disabilities achieve success by encouraging their strengths, knowing their weaknesses, understanding the educational system, working with professionals and learning about strategies for dealing with specific difficulties.
Useful tips when meeting with your child’s teacher
- Write down any questions you have before entering the meeting. These questions should be geared toward gaining greater understanding of your child’s problems and how to address them in the school setting.
- Review records of previous educational meetings and be prepared to share them with school personnel.
- Be ready to share your observations about your child’s academic progress. Listen well and participate in the meeting with an open mind, knowing that you are all there to facilitate school success for your child.
- Keep careful and detailed notes at the meeting. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you do not understand something that was said.
- Ask for information on the curriculum and how students’ work is evaluated, so that you know how to gauge your child’s progress.
- Appreciate that teachers must juggle the unique needs of many students. Work with school personnel to come up with strategies that are practical, given the realities of the school and the classroom.
- Acknowledge that the major motivation for success must come from your child. Work with teachers to keep expectations high and to nurture an enthusiasm for learning.
- Agree on how you and the teacher will make follow-up contacts to review progress.
The following are additional online resources regarding learning disabilities