A learning disability is a problem that affects how a person processes, understands and uses information.
Everyone has learning strengths and weaknesses, but people with learning disabilities have complex learning issues that persist throughout their lives. However, learning disabled students are as smart as – and can be even smarter than – the average student.
One can have a superior IQ yet still have cognitive challenges. Being learning disabled does not directly correlate with a lack of intelligence or motivation. LD students manage information differently because they have a neurological processing challenge that interferes with their ability to master specific concepts when taught in a traditional manner.
Learning differences can take on multiple forms. Some students have difficulties getting content into the brain. These children struggle with information integration, such as the ability to organize, sequence, retrieve or infer meaning. Other students have difficulty getting information out of the brain. These children struggle with fine motor skills, such as handwriting, organizing thoughts on paper or finding the right words to express ideas.
Knowledge acquisition is unique for each child, and difficulties can surface at any age. There are, however, some specific signs that may indicate your child learns differently. During the preschool years, look for language complications, such as acquisition difficulties or word pronunciation problems. Some young students may have struggles with coordination and finger use, finding simple tasks unusually frustrating. If any area of development feels delayed, check with a teacher to determine if an early intervention is needed.
As children enter the elementary years, subject area concerns often become more prominent. LD students may be able to master many skills but have difficulty grasping certain concepts. Frequent reading errors, constant misspellings or atypical troubles with basic math computations can be markers of a learning issue. In addition, some may experience social struggles and communication problems, which also affect knowledge acquisition.
Many learning disabled students, however, actually thrive in grade school. These kids often develop compensating strategies for their cognitive challenges. Elementary school teachers are also particularly talented at supporting individuals of all abilities no matter how they learn. By using multimodal teaching techniques, these professionals make academics more appealing to all students, no matter their learning style. But as these children mature, school tends to become frustrating.
For a small group, learning difficulties don’t surface until the middle or high school years. Classes become more challenging because students are asked to engage in higher-order thinking tasks, such as comparing concepts, linking previously taught ideas to new material and understanding complex relationships. Many struggle because they are unable to hold information in short-term memory and execute multi-step tasks.
With teens, however, it can also be difficult to sort out typical distractions from true learning issues. Some students struggle with classroom attention, avoid homework and fail tests because they have no desire to do long division or read Jane Austen. Others put forth appropriate or even excessive effort, but still experience low grades. Review homework and look for unusual sequencing, overly sloppy work or excessively long completion times. Also, check on your child’s emotional state. School anxiety or a confidence crisis often can be the result of an unknown learning issue.
What Parents Can Do to Ensure Kids Get Needed Help
Trust your parental instincts and pursue assistance if you think there is a problem. Start by talking to your child’s teachers. Next, consult with your child’s doctor and rule out any medical concerns. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, work with a qualified educational specialist who understands learning issues. This expert will review academic records, interview the family and consult with the school. These professionals will also administer a comprehensive set of cognitive tests and academic assessments to develop a detailed learning profile and determine if a problem exists.
It can be upsetting for parents to consider the possibility that their child may learn differently. It is, however, important for families to own the problem, understand how their child thinks and learns, and seek the services they need. Don’t adopt a wait-and-see approach. Be proactive in addressing the problem. With intervention, advocacy and support, LD students succeed in school, college and life.
Source: US News