Can you imagine trying to read this article every with jumbled word, some letters illegible or Backward and others missing altogether?
For 1 in 5 Americans, this is how they view life every day…many have the same problems writing words, grasping the concept of addition and subtraction, comprehending or carrying on ordinary conversations or following simple directions. This is the confusing world of persons suffering from learning disabilities.
More than 60 million Americans have some form of learning disability (LD). In the past, such disabilities weren’t understood or properly diagnosed, and many times those suffering with neurologically based LDs were labeled as lazy or unmotivated. Research has proven that the stigma formerly attached to LDs is totally unfounded, and many of those with LDs have above average IQs, are incredibly self-motivated and lead very successful lives.
Just a few short decades have seen vast improvement in the early detection of LDs in young children, and few people now reach adulthood without being aware of the nature and scope of their disability. School systems are designed to begin recognizing children with LDs in pre-kindergarten so alternative or supplemental learning methods can help them begin to learn to adjust and manage their specific disabilities at a young age.
“Here in Citrus County, we use the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) platform and all students receive interventions as needed,” says Beth Whealin, exceptional student education (ESE) specialist with the Citrus County School District. “Our pre-K teachers utilize a ‘Response and Recognition’ program in an effort to discern the first signs that a child may be falling behind, and in kindergarten, we begin the multi-tiered Response to Intervention (RTI) process.
“There are three tiers of support. Tier 1 evaluates the child’s proficiency in the school-approved core curriculum provided to all students. If a teacher sees that a child is struggling to obtain proficiency in the core curriculum, then they would receive Tier 2 support,” says Whealin. “Here, the student receives interventions, such as focused instructional programs and supplemental support performed while the child remains in his or her assigned classroom. During Tier 2 interventions, the student is constantly being evaluated to determine if he or she is making progress or losing ground.
“If we find that this level of intervention is not sufficient, then we would perform an in-depth evaluation to determine if the child needs Tier 3 support, which would be placement in the ESE program. Here we provide even more intensive focused instruction and support, keeping the child in the regular classroom setting whenever possible.
“Our focus is on the child’s success. This program is designed to help each student, regardless of whether they have a specific learning disability or not, to get the best education possible in an effort to prepare them for their life ahead,” says Whealin.
Because LDs are congenital neurological deficits, it may be possible in some instances for a parent or family member to detect signs of LDs well before the child reaches school age. This would enable even earlier intervention and could help alleviate the frustration a learning-disabled child feels as he or she struggles to keep up with other children in a classroom setting.
Here are some of the most common types of LDs and the warning signs you can look for in your child. Remember, simply detecting one or more signs of LDs in your child’s behavior doesn’t provide definitive proof that your child has a disability. Seek professional counsel with your pediatrician if you believe your child suffers from LDs.
Dyslexia, like all LDs, is a congenital neurological disorder that has no known cure, and it poses learning problems that have to be dealt with for a lifetime. The brain of a person affected with this LD causes him or her to process language differently than most people, and it varies in severity from person to person. Dyslexia can affect the person’s ability to process language in all forms, including writing, spelling, reading and, in some cases, speaking. Anyone can be born with dyslexia, and it tends to run in families.
These are possible warning signs that your child might be dyslexic:
Has trouble learning the alphabet or recognizing and naming letters
Cannot easily associate letters with sounds
Has a delayed ability to speak, read or write (compared to children of his or her age)
Cannot remember the names of objects or people
Doesn’t have the ability to rhyme words
Transposes letters when pronouncing words
Cannot easily follow directions
Does not comprehend direction such as left or right
Cannot recognize “sight words”
Has trouble distinguishing between similar letters
Doesn’t make or keep friends
Doesn’t “get” simple jokes
Dysgraphia is an impairment in writing proficiency involving both fine motor and information-processing skills. Children suffering from dysgraphia may have trouble writing legibly, spelling correctly, spacing words or letters correctly, writing for long periods of time, writing within designated boundaries and expressing themselves adequately through the written word. There are several subtypes of dysgraphia that may contain all or some of these symptoms.
Because the fine motor and information processing skills required to write effectively are not present in children at an early age, dysgraphia may not be diagnosed until the child is somewhat older. Because information processing skills may be affected, and not just fine motor skills, persons suffering from dysgraphia may also be affected by dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other LDs. These information-processing skills may include the inability to process what is seen or heard and transcribe this information into the written word. The symptoms of this disorder may change as the affected person grows older.
This LD affects math skills, such as addition and subtraction, organizing numbers, remembering sequential instructions, counting objects, telling time and recognizing math symbols. The severity varies from person to person and may vary in an individual’s lifetime. Anyone can have dyscalculia, and it is comprised of both spatial comprehension deficits and language-processing difficulties.
Math skills do not come easy to a large number of people, and dyscalculia can be hard to detect, especially in younger children who may take more time to develop such skills. Look for consistent trouble with simple math procedures. Research shows that dyscalculia affects 5 to 6 percent of school-aged children, and more than one-quarter of those affected also suffer from ADHD.
A simple test to determine whether your child might have dyscalculia is called subitizing: Have your child look at a picture of a number of random items. If he or she can instantly give you an accurate count for up to five items, then it’s unlikely they suffer from dyscalculia. If the child has trouble discerning five or less items in very rapid order, then it would be advisable to have him or her undergo a professional evaluation.
Executive Function Deficit
Executive function deficit involves cognitive and behavioral control. Executive function is the set of mental processes that help us formulate goals, organize our thoughts and activities, manage time, plan for future events, pay attention and focus.
This LD usually has a delayed diagnosis because symptoms are not always apparent in a young child’s undeveloped brain. In the middle elementary grades, as the child is forced to be responsible for performing tasks such as homework without close teacher supervision, this disorder becomes more apparent. Children suffering with this deficit can be helped by early intervention that consists of direct instruction coupled with positive, well-defined feedback.
Children with executive function deficit may have trouble:
Planning and completing school projects
Coming up with their own ideas
Memorizing things such as short poems or lists
Managing or estimating time
Children suffering with dyspraxia exhibit deficits in gross and fine motor skill development. To get an idea as to how it affects children, one only need look at its former name—clumsy child syndrome. This neurodevelopmental motor disorder may affect how a child stands, walks, runs, jumps, dances or climbs.
Dyspraxia is caused by faulty transmission of electrical impulses between the brain and muscles. The brain may tell the body to do one thing and the muscles only partially respond or respond in a totally different manner than what is intended.
Dyspraxia is predominantly found in males and affects approximately 6 percent of all children. The symptoms vary in type and intensity from person to person, and symptoms may also vary with age or neurological development.
Some of the warning signs of dyspraxia are:
Has trouble brushing teeth, tying shoes, buttoning shirts, waving good-bye, combing hair, holding a pencil, etc.
Bumps into walls or objects when walking or running
Speaks too slowly and has trouble enunciating words correctly
Has difficulty manipulating small game pieces or toys
Hand In Hand
Learning disabilities are neurological deficits that directly affect a person’s ability to grasp concepts or perform certain actions. There are other neurologically based disorders that aren’t classified as Learning Disabilities, yet they either frequently accompany them or interfere with a person’s ability to learn. They are so prevalent in persons with Learning Disabilities that their presence could assist a parent in diagnosing LD in their child.
ADHD is thought to be caused by an imbalance of chemical neurotransmitters in the brain. These chemicals transmit informational signals between neurons, and without them, you wouldn’t be able to read this page. When neurotransmitters are out of balance, this affects the smooth, efficient and accurate flow of information through the brain.
Children with this disorder have trouble organizing their thoughts and actions, which leads to problems with socialization and behavior, which, in turn, can exacerbate problems with learning. Almost one-third of children with LDs also have ADHD.
ADHD also differs from LDs in how professionals treat the disorder. Treatment usually involves medication, whereas LD treatment usually involves modifications in educational techniques.
ADHD usually can be discerned very early in life. Symptoms may include:
Fidgeting or constant movement
Doesn’t consider the consequences of their actions
Inability to focus
Lack of organization
Doesn’t follow instructions
Central Auditory Processing Disorder
Central auditory process disorder (CAPD) is an auditory disability in which a person has difficulty processing information that is heard. The end result of this impairment is that the person cannot properly interpret spoken commands or simple speech. This disorder does not involve a problem with the mechanics of hearing; it involves the proper neurological interpretation of what is heard.
CAPD can be congenital or acquired through head trauma, severe ear infections or problems with the developing brain. It is usually diagnosed through behavioral auditory testing.
Signs your child might be suffering from CAPD:
Has trouble following simple directions
Cannot discern others’ speech when subject to loud background noise
Struggles to carry on conversations
Has trouble discerning between similar sounding words
Non-verbal Learning Disorder
Nonverbal learning disorder (NLD) is very similar to Asperger syndrome in that it affects proper socialization, spatial perception and motor coordination. NLD symptoms can vary greatly from person to person in type and intensity, making it very hard to diagnose on an individual basis.
Children with NLD may have average or better-than-average verbal abilities and general intelligence but may have significant trouble interpreting body language and/or facial expressions.
Common signs include:
Talks too much and too quickly while asking an inordinate amount of questions
Has a lack of physical coordination
Cannot discern when persons are angry or sad by their facial expressions
Has trouble making and keeping friends
Deals poorly with any form of change
Has problems with math skills in middle to higher grades
Children who suffer from dysphasia or aphasia find it difficult to comprehend or express language, and many have trouble understanding the written word. Severity of language expression can vary from finding the right words to describe an event to total loss of the ability to speak. Dysphasia can be congenital or may develop following trauma or illness.
The symptoms are usually quite evident and may include:
Frustration when attempting to describe an event
Cannot express themselves verbally
Has trouble comprehending written words
Has trouble verbally identifying objects
The Right Course of Action
Many LD symptoms can be attributed to delayed neurological development, and you should not assume that your child has a disability based on symptoms alone. Seek professional help if you feel your child has a problem. Schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician to discuss your concerns.
Provide a detailed list of your child’s symptoms to your pediatrician and request to have your child properly evaluated. If still unsure following an evaluation, consult with your school’s exceptional student education specialist. He or she is trained to help recognize LDs and initiate the proper course of action to ensure your child gets any help needed as soon as possible.
Research has proven that customized modified instructional techniques coupled with personal instruction beginning at the earliest possible age are the most effective tools in providing a learning disabled child the best chance for a successful future. If you have any concerns that your child might possibly have a LD, don’t delay seeking professional help.