Learning Disabilities

A learning disability is a neurological disorder that prevents a child from learning, or significantly impairs the learning process. A learning disability is not a reflection of intelligence, and a child who has one may be of average or above-average intelligence. A child with a learning disability processes information differently from other children, and has difficulty performing specific tasks. With early diagnosis and intervention, methods can be developed to address learning difficulties and overcome the challenges that they present.

Diagnosis of Learning Disabilities

The evaluation of a child with learning disabilities begins with an assessment of the following:

  • Developmental history
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Academic capabilities
  • Behavioral strengths and weaknesses

The results of the evaluation contain recommendations for the child, and are used to develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Causes of Learning Disabilities

There is no one specific cause for learning disabilities. It is thought that some of the following may lead to their development:

  • Heredity
  • Substance abuse during pregnancy
  • Use of alcohol or illegal drugs during pregnancy
  • Difficulties during pregnancy and delivery
  • Exposure to environmental toxins
  • Poor nutrition
  • Head injury
  • Child abuse

Types of Learning Disabilities

There are many different types of learning disabilities; they include:

  • Developmental speech and language disorders
  • Academic-skills disorders
  • Coordination disorders
  • Learning handicaps
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Signs of Learning Disabilities

Detecting learning disabilities as early as possible is crucial for their successful treatment. A child should receive medical attention if he or she exhibits any of the following:

  • Speech problems
  • Inability to focus
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Inability to follow instructions
  • Inability to complete simple or complex tasks
  • Inability to distinguish words
  • Reversal of letters, words or numbers
  • Lack of physical coordination
  • Socialization problems

Treatment of Learning Disabilities

After a learning disability is diagnosed, an IEP is designed for the child to follow both at school and at home. The IEP has specific goals for the child based on her or his specific needs. In general, a child with a learning disability is eligible for special assistance at school.

Medication may be prescribed for a child with ADHD in order to help improve attention span and ability to focus.

Additional Resources