A learning disorder is an information-processing problem that prevents a person from learning a skill and using it effectively. Learning disorders generally affect people of average or above average intelligence. As a result, the disorder appears as a gap between expected skills, based on age and intelligence, and academic performance.
There are several types of learning disorders that affect students classroom performance. In this article, we will briefly look at 5 of them and explain what they are and how they affect the student.
These five learning disabilities can manifest with varying degrees of severity, and some students may struggle with more than one. By understanding these disabilities, it is possible to find workable solutions so that every student can succeed in the classroom.
Dyslexia is perhaps the best known learning disability. It is a learning disorder that impedes the student’s ability to read and comprehend a text. There are a variety of ways in which this disability can be manifested.
Some people struggle with phonemic awareness, which means they fail to recognize the way words break down according to sound. Similar problems can occur with phonological processing, wherein students cannot distinguish between similar word sounds.
Other issues relate generally to fluency, spelling, comprehension and more. Students may experience one reading issue or multiple issues when struggling with dyslexia.
2. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder has affected more than 6.4 million children at some point. While there is some debate as to whether or not ADHD is a learning disability in the most technical sense, there is no doubt that it is a common learning impediment.
Students who have ADHD have difficulty paying attention and staying on task. These students can be easily distracted and often have difficulty in traditional school settings.
Experts link ADHD with the structure of the brain, and there is evidence that ADHD may have a genetic component as well. Unlike typical learning disabilities, which need instructional interventions, ADHD can be successfully treated with medications and behavioral therapies.
Math is another major area of concern when it comes to learning disabilities. While difficulty with reading can affect a student’s ability in math, some students also suffer from dyscalculia, which is a disorder that specifically affects one’s math capabilities.
Dyscalculia can range from an inability to order numbers correctly and extend to limited strategies for problem solving.
Students with math disorders may have trouble performing basic math calculations, or they may have difficulty with concepts like time, measurement or estimation.
While reading disabilities receive the most attention, writing disabilities can be equally difficult to overcome. These disabilities are known as dysgraphia.
Dysgraphia can be related to the physical act of writing. These students often cannot hold a pencil correctly, and their posture may be tense while trying to write. This leads them to tire easily, causing discouragement that further inhibits progress.
Dysgraphia can also refer to difficulty with written expression. With this type of disability, students have trouble organizing their thoughts coherently. Their writing may be redundant or have obvious omissions that affect the quality and readability of the text.
Dysgraphia may also cause students to struggle with basic sentence structure and grammatical awareness.
5. Processing Deficits
Learning disabilities are also connected to processing deficits. When students have a processing deficit, they have trouble making sense of sensory data. This makes it hard for students to perform in a traditional classroom without instructional supports.
These deficits are most often auditory or visual, and they can make it hard for students to distinguish and remember important information that is needed to succeed.
What Causes Learning Disorders?
Learning disorders can come as a result of several factors. The common identified factors that might influence the development of learning disorders include:
- Family history and genetics : A family history of learning disorders increases the risk of a child developing a disorder.
- Prenatal and neonatal risks : Poor growth in the uterus (severe intrauterine growth restriction), exposure to alcohol or drugs before being born, premature birth, and very low birthweight have been linked with learning disorders.
- Psychological trauma : Psychological trauma or abuse in early childhood may affect brain development and increase the risk of learning disorders.
- Physical trauma : Head injuries or nervous system infections might play a role in the development of learning disorders.
- Environmental exposure : Exposure to high levels of toxins, such as lead, has been linked to an increased risk of learning disorders.
- Exposure to neurologic or central nervous system injury in utero or after birth.
- Lack of nurturing environment.
- Medications such as cancer or leukemia treatments in children.
- Nutritional deficits.
- Sensory deficits, such as hearing loss or poor vision
Signs Symptoms Associated With Learning Disorders
Common signs that a student may have learning disabilities include the following:
- Problems reading and/or writing.
- Problems with math.
- Poor memory.
- Problems paying attention.
- Trouble following directions.
- Trouble telling time.
- Problems staying organized.
A child with a learning disability also may have one or more of the following :
- Acting without really thinking about possible outcomes (impulsiveness).
- “Acting out” in school or social situations.
- Difficulty staying focused; being 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.
Treatment of Learning Disorders
Learning disorders in students can be effectively managed when properly identified. Although the management approach may differ depending on the type of disability the student has, the underlying treatment principles are the same. If your child has a learning disorder, your child’s doctor or school might recommend;
Extra help : A reading specialist, math tutor or other trained professional can teach your child techniques to improve his or her academic, organizational and study skills.
Individualized education program (IEP) : Public schools in the United States for example are mandated to provide an individual education program for students who meet certain criteria for a learning disorder. The IEP sets learning goals and determines strategies and services to support the child’s learning in school.
Accommodations : Classroom accommodations might include more time to complete assignments or tests, being seated near the teacher to promote attention, use of computer applications that support writing, including fewer math problems in assignments, or providing audiobooks to supplement reading.
Therapy : Some children benefit from therapy. Occupational therapy might improve the motor skills of a child who has writing problems. A speech-language therapist can help address language skills.
Medication : Your child’s doctor might recommend medication to manage depression or severe anxiety. Medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder may improve a child’s ability to concentrate in school.
Complementary and alternative medicine; Further research is needed to determine the effectiveness of alternative treatments, such as dietary changes, use of vitamins, eye exercises, neurofeedback and use of technological devices.