Learning About Learning Disabilities

“You need to study more.” “Follow the directions!” “Did you check your work?” “Where’s your homework; it’s supposed to be in your binder.” These are the words heard daily by many children as they navigate the world of academics. Often these are the children who study more than any other student, take hours to complete homework, or go to tutoring every day after school. All of this extra effort is accompanied by a great deal of frustration, anxiety, stress, acting out, or tantrum throwing. For them, there is just no time to “be a kid” once they leave school.

If this is your child it may be time to consider the possibility of a learning disability. 2.3 million students are diagnosed with a specific learning disability (SLD) and receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Seventy-five to 80 percent of children in special education are identified as having a basic learning disorder in language and reading. Sixty percent of adults who suffer severe literacy problems usually have an undetected or untreated learning disability. (ldaamerica.org) All children start school anxious and eager; they want to learn to read and write and be successful. However, parents begin to realize that their child is struggling day after day and may have some learning problems. These children are of average or above average intelligence and can learn, but their potential is hidden by their learning disability. It’s important to notice these struggles and recognize it’s time to seek help. If left undetected and unaddressed, the disability impacts not only academics, but also relationships with family, friends, and eventually at work as an adult.

A learning disability is a type of neurological condition that interferes with the ability to retain, understand, and demonstrate learning in the basic fundamental areas of reading, writing, and/or math. It may also impact higher order thinking skills: attention, problem solving, abstract reasoning, long or short-term memory, or time management. Learning disabilities are a lifelong issue, but students with a learning disability can achieve success given the appropriate intervention, help, and support necessary to learn the needed strategies and techniques. The term learning disability is a broad term used to describe the specific disabilities under IDEA; these specific disabilities are: Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, Language Processing Disorder, Non-Verbal Learning Disability, Visual/Perceptual/Visual-Motor Deficit, ADHD, Dyspraxia, Executive Functioning, and Memory.

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) common signs that a learning disability exists include:
• Problems reading and/or writing
• Problems with math
• Poor memory
• Problems paying attention
• Trouble following directions
• Clumsiness
• Trouble telling time
• Problems staying organized

One or more of the following may also exist:
• Acting without really thinking about possible outcomes (impulsiveness)
• “Acting out” in school/social situations
• Difficulty staying focused; easily distracted
• Difficulty saying a word correctly out loud or expressing thoughts
• Problems with school performance from week to week or day to day
• Speaking like a younger child; using short, simple phrases; or leaving out words in sentences
• Having a hard time listening
• Problems dealing with changes in schedule or situations
• Problems understanding words or concepts

If any of these signs are observed, it’s time to obtain help for the child. The first step is to have an evaluation for a learning disability by a licensed professional such as a Clinical, School, or Educational Psychologist, Speech-Language Pathologist, Neuropsychologist, Psychometrist, Occupational Therapist, or personal Physician. Once the evaluation is completed the professional will make recommendations and provide accommodations and modifications to help the child reach their full potential. Next, address the recommendations immediately. Left unaddressed, your child’s chances to reach success decrease daily.

Susan Niette, MCD, CCC-SLP received her Bachelors of Science degree from LSU Baton Rouge in Education and her Masters of Communication Disorders (MCD) from LSUMC (now LSUHSC). She is currently the Owner of Best Practice Associates, Inc. where she is a National Educational Consultant, Educational Diagnostician & Therapist, & practices as a Speech-Language Pathologist specializing in Learning Disabilities and Cochlear Implanted patients.

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