A learning disability is a neurological condition that affects the brain’s ability to send, receive, and process information. Learning disabilities or disorders are experienced by 5-10% of children in the world. The basic characteristic of LD is the gap between academic achievement and children’s learning capacity.
Many children have trouble reading, writing, or performing other learning-related tasks at some point. This does not mean they have learning disabilities. A child with a learning disability often has several related signs, and they don’t go away or get better over time. The signs of learning disabilities vary from person to person.
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
These signs alone are not enough to determine that a person has a learning disability. Only a professional can diagnose a learning disability.
Learning disability support
All children need love, encouragement, and support, and for kids with learning disabilities, such positive reinforcement can help ensure that they emerge with a strong sense of self-worth, confidence, and the determination to keep going even when things are tough.
In searching for ways to help children with learning disabilities, remember that you are looking for ways to help them help themselves. Your job as a parent is not to “cure” the learning disability, but to give your child the social and emotional tools they need to work through challenges. In the long run, facing and overcoming a challenge such as a learning disability can help your child grow stronger and more resilient.
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If your child has a learning disability, 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 are mandated to provide an individualized 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, the use of vitamins, eye exercises, neurofeedback, and the use of technological devices.
Your child’s treatment plan will likely evolve over time. If your child isn’t making progress, you can seek additional services or request revisions to an IEP or accommodations.
In the meantime, help your child understand in simple terms the need for any additional services and how they may help. Also, focus on your child’s strengths. Encourage your child to pursue interests that give him or her confidence.
Together, these interventions can improve your child’s skills, help him or her develop coping strategies, and use his or her strengths to improve learning in and outside of school.