LEARNING DISABILITIES (LD)
Q. What are learning disabilities?
A. Learning disabilities are a group of disorders that affect a persons ability to either interpret what they see and hear or to link information from different parts of the brain. Learning disabilities may affect a persons ability to speak, listen, read, write, spell, reason, recall, organize information or to do mathematics. These disorders are seen in people who have normal intelligence but due to some differences in the connections in the brain, they affect various speech, articulations, coordination and academic aspects of the development.
Q. What are the causes of learning disabilities? How do they occur?
A. Though, at present, what exactly causes learning disability is not known, a leading theory is that they arise from subtle disturbances in brain structures and functions.
In many cases, the disturbance may begin before birth. If the brain disturbance occurs early in pregnancy, the fetus may die or the baby may have mental retardation. If these disturbances occur later in pregnancy they may show up as learning disabilities.
Some learning disabilities may run in families indicating an inheritance. However, a parents learning disability may be slightly different than in the child.
Other factors that are associated with learning disabilities are:
It has been found that there may be variations in the brain structure called planum temporale, a language related area found on both sides of the brain. In people with dyslexia, the two structures are found to be equal in size. In people who are not dyslexic, however the left planum temporale is found to be noticeably larger.
Q. What are the various types of learning disabilities?
A. Learning disabilities can show up in several waysas specific difficulties with spoken and written language, co-ordination, self-control or attention.
They are divided into 3 broad categories:
(1). DEVELOPMENTAL SPEECH AND LANGUAGE DISORDERS
These people have difficulty producing speech sounds, (Developmental Articulation Disorders) whereby they may have trouble controlling their rate of speech or may lag behind in learning to make speech sounds for e.g. "Sweep" may be pronounced as "Thweep". These articulation disorders are common and is seen in at least 10 percent of children younger than 8 years. Most of the children however outgrow their problems or are successfully treated with speech therapy.
Some children may have problems expressing themselves in speech (Developmental Expressive Language Disorders). They may call objects by wrong names or are unable to answer simple questions.
Some people may have trouble understanding certain aspects of speech (Developmental Receptive Language Disorders). They may not respond to their names or are unable to follow simple directions. Their hearing is normal but they just cant make sense of certain sounds, words or sentences that they hear and may even appear inattentive. These people may also have trouble in expressing themselves.
(2). ACADEMIC SKILLS DISORDERS
These children have difficulty in reading, writing or arithmetic. These are the most common learning disabilities seen. It consists of
An older child with dyslexia may have trouble remembering what has recently been read, have difficulty concentrating while reading or writing and may also have poor spelling.
(3). OTHER DISORDERS : (includes coordination, motor skill disorders and other specific developmental disorders). Here a person may have difficulty in doing coordinative actions, difficulty to form letters or write within a defined space (dysgraphia)
Q. How are children with learning disabilities identified?
A. Parents are usually the first to notice delays in their child reaching early milestones, but the pediatrician may observe more subtle signs of minor neurological damage. However, the classroom teacher may, infact be the first to notice the childs persistent difficulties in reading, writing or arithmetic.
There are some warning signs, which may help to pick up children with learning disabilities earlier.
Warning signs in a preschool child : -
Warning signs in a school going child : -
Warning signs in an Adolescent and Adults : -
- Continues to spell incorrectly.
- Avoids reading and writing tasks.
- Has weak memory skills.
- Has difficulty adjusting to new settings.
- Works slowly.
- Misreads information.
- Either pays too little attention to details or focuses on them too much.
Q. How are children with learning disabilities diagnosed?
A. A child is suspected to have a learning disability, when there is inability to attain certain skills inspite of a normal intelligence. The actual diagnosis of learning disabilities is made using standardized tests that compare the childs level of ability to what is considered normal development for a person of that age and intelligence.
Each type of learning disability is diagnosed in slightly different ways.
Q. Can learning disabilities be cured?
A. Though learning disabilities can not be cured, most people learn to adapt and live fulfilling lives. Certain learning problems reflect delayed development and many children eventually catch up. Children with articulation and expressive language disorders do not usually have a long-term problem.
Q. I have heard that megavitamins help a child with LD. Is that true?
A. Megavitamins have not been proven to be effective in treating majority of children with LD. Other therapies that have been proven to be ineffective are colored lenses, special diets and body stimulation.
Q. How are children with learning disabilities treated?
A. It is extremely important that learning disabilities are diagnosed early as the brains flexibility to learn new skills is greatest in young children and may diminish somewhat after puberty. Thus, early intervention is most important (Nevertheless, the ability to learn remains throughout life ).
Children with LD and their families require help on several fronts: educational, medical, emotional and practical.
In most ways, children with LD are no different from other children. They require special educational programs either in a separate all day classroom or as a special educational class for several hours a week. If problems are severe, these children may require a special school for the learning disabled. Special educational programs begin with systematically identifying what the student can and cannot do. By using several skills and sense, the child is taught the activities for e.g. in learning to spell and recognize words, a student may be asked to see, say, write and spell each new word. The student may also write the words in sand, which engages the sense of touch (children are more likely to retain a skill if more the senses are used).
For a child with articulation problems, the child may watch the speech therapist make the sound, feel the vibration in the therapists throat, then practice making the sounds before a mirror.
Non-standard teaching methods like using computers that talk can help teach children with language disabilities to process spoken words more quickly. The computer starts slowly, pronouncing one sound at a time. As the child gets better at recognizing the sounds and hearing them as words the sounds are gradually speeded up to a normal rate of speech.
Medications like methyl phenidate, dextroamphetamine and pemoline are available, which are used in children with attention deficit disorders. They help children control their impulsiveness and other hyperactive behaviors. These drugs are effective for 34 hours and the child takes the medication so that the drug is active during peak school hours.
The effects of LD may not enable a LD child to effectively communicate socially. Children with LD may have a low self-esteem and consider themselves :- behind, slow or different from other children. Counseling can be very useful to people with LD and their families. Counseling can help affected children, teenagers and adults develop greater self-control and a more positive attitude towards their own abilities. Family members may also be allowed to air their feelings as well as get support and reassurance. When children have learning disabilities, parents may need to work harder at developing their childrens self-esteem and relationship building skills for self-esteem and good relationships are as worth developing as any academic skills.
Q. What are other sources of information of learning Disabilities?
A. Books on Learning Disabilities are as follows:
Last created on 20-01-2001
Last updated on 18-11-2006