Learning disabilities

November 12, 2012

Learning disabilities

Some parents may worry that their child does not appear to be progressing at the expected rate at school – perhaps the child is reluctant to take part in homework or seems to continually struggle with simple reading, writing and arithmetic no matter how hard he or she tries. All children go through phases of difficulty for various reasons, and some children may well just be too lazy or disinterested to progress, however, for other children who seem to persistently struggle there may be an underlying problem that requires investigation.

Learning disability

The term ‘learning disabilities’ has become an umbrella term for various difficulties in learning and is not necessarily a difficulty of motivation or intelligence – many children with learning disabilities simply learn in a different way to the rest of us.

Any parent who suspects their child may be affected by learning disabilities should do a little research and detective work in order to determine the specific learning challenges faced by their child. Facing and dealing with learning disabilities as soon as possible means a greater chance of success for the child involved. Generally speaking a learning disability will mean difficulties with -

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Math
  • Reasoning
  • Communication – listening and speaking

What to look for

Just as all children are very different so too are the signs and symptoms of learning disabilities, identifying a specific problem is not easy but there are many warning signs that may be considered ‘red flags’ particularly when consistently observed over a sustained period of time, some of these signs include the following -

  • Difficulty in word pronunciation, in blending sounds or finding the right words to use
  • Difficulty controlling pens, pencils or fastening zippers, buttons, shoelaces etc
  • Slow in learning new skills
  • Difficulty following and remembering instructions
  • Simple mistakes in spelling and/or reading
  • Difficulty in comprehension and understanding
  • Lack of organisational skills
  • Difficulty following and joining in discussions
  • Poor handwriting
  • Developmental delay

Types of learning disabilities

Many learning disabilities are now recognised and labelled – this is beneficial for the child and its school. They are often identified by academic skill – such as

  • Dyslexia – difficulty with reading affecting letter and word recognition as well as vocabulary skills, speed and fluency of reading and understanding words and ideas.
  • Dyscalculia – difficulty with math affecting memorization and organisational skills as well as counting principles
  • Dysgraphia – difficulty with both the physical act of writing and the understanding and processing of information.
  • Dyspraxia – difficulty with motor skills such as movement and coordination. This may include difficulty with cutting or writing (fine motor skills), or physical activities such as running or jumping (gross motor skills)
  • Aphasia or dysphasia – language and communication difficulties, both in understanding and producing of language.
  • Auditory and visual difficulty – when eyes and/or ears fail to work properly the input of information to the brain is adversely affected, this in turn may mean that the ability to learn is impaired.
  • ADHD – not always considered to be a true learning disability but ADHD can and does disrupt the learning process.
  • Autism and Asperger’s syndrome – these developmental disorders may make communication difficult and lead to difficulty mastering academic and social skills.

There is a wide range of help available for any child with a learning disability – recognising and dealing with it as soon as possible means that the child will have the greatest chance of success in overcoming the disability as he or she grows.


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