An Introduction To Learning Disorders

So what do Abhishek Bachchan, Daniel Radcliffe, Jamie Oliver, Richard Branson and Jennifer Anniston have in common?

celebrities with learning disorders

Yes, they are all celebrities but they all, also have been diagnosed with a Learning Disorder, either in their childhood or as young adults. Even as awareness about this group of disorders is yet to claim centre stage, the fact is that Learning Disorders also often referred to as Learning Disabilities are more common than you think. But the names we just heard are proof enough that learning disabilities do not stop you from achieving your potential.

Learning disabilities can be defined as neurological disorders that affect an individual’s ability to learn. Specific Learning Disorder is the medical term used, however, Learning Disabilities is used by educational systems in some countries. It is a broad term used to describe various learning difficulties that certain individuals experience. Most children with a learning disability have average or above-average intelligence but their brains process information differently.

teacher tutoring slow learner

According to the American Psychiatric Association, Learning Disabilities refer to ongoing problems in areas of reading, writing or math, which are foundational to one’s ability to learn. Although these neurodevelopmental disorders are present in very young children, they are often recognised only when children begin formal schooling and in some cases may not be recognised even until adulthood.

Schooling can be a battle for many children. Some children might not cope well under certain stressors or environment, while some may lack the motivation to learn. This however doesn’t indicate a learning disorder by itself. A Learning Disability might be a more reasonable explanation when a child consistently shows difficulty in a certain area of learning. The most common areas of difficulty that people with a learning disorder experience are problems in reading, writing, math, listening speaking and reasoning. Although there are many types of Learning disabilities, the most common disorder is Dyslexia, which is characterised by difficulty in learning to read.

The term “learning difference” has become popular lately, in order to not label children who suffer from it as being “disordered”.

Types of Learning Disorders

Today we are going to look at 3 of the main types of learning disorders.

child with learning disorders

Dyslexia: This is characterized by a difficulty mainly in reading, and is also referred to as “reading disorder”. Children with Dyslexia have a problem connecting the letters they see to the sounds they make. Therefore, they are unable to read fluently or read without making mistakes. Another common feature we see in individuals with Dyslexia is difficulty in comprehending what they are reading.

Commonly seen problems are

  • Difficulty in recognising letters or words
  • Understanding words
  • Reading fluently
child with difficulty in number crunching

Dyscalculia: is characterized by difficulty in math and learning number-related concepts.

Children with dyscalculia face challenges in organising or memorising numbers, understanding or retaining math facts (such as tables) and might also have trouble telling time.

Dysgraphia: mainly characterised by difficulty in writing. This can be the physical act of writing or the mental activity of comprehending information. They may also face difficulties in grammar, spelling, punctuation and handwriting. Commonly seen problems are in

  • Learning spellings
  • Copying letters and words
  • Neatness in writing
  • Writing coherently
child with difficulty remembering

Two commonly seen issues with learning disorders are Audio Processing Disorders and Visual Processing Disorders. Although not universally seen as types of Learning Disorders, these two conditions might explain why an individual has trouble with learning.

Audio Processing Disorder(APD): is mainly characterised by difficulty in processing sounds. Individuals with APD generally get confused by the order of sounds. They may not be able to filter certain sounds too, like an instructor’s voice against background noise. To put it in plain terms, the brain misinterprets the auditory information it receives, even though the person has normal hearing capabilities.

Visual Processing Disorder: This is characterized by misinterpreting visual information and poor eye-hand coordination. Children may have difficulty with using pencils, crayons or a pair of scissors and other fine motor activities. Often seen is confusion between similar-looking letters, shapes and objects. Eg; “b” and “d” may look the same to the child, they may not see the difference between a square and a rectangle. Issues due to a Visual Processing Disorder cannot be picked up with a regular eye test, therefore the disorder may be difficult to identify easily.

Diagnosing A Learning Disability

It must be noted that just the presence of challenges in any learning area doesn’t necessarily indicate a learning disorder. There could often be other factors involved when a child shows difficulty in learning. An individual’s learning style, motivation, learning environment etc, all have an impact on the child’s ability to learn. Therefore, if there are concerns about a child’s learning, a proper assessment by a psychologist is required to make a diagnosis. A diagnosis is made only after careful evaluation, observation and when the child meets certain criteria for any of the learning disorders

child feeling insecure

Impact of Learning Disabilities

As Learning disabilities affect one’s learning in certain areas, they directly have an impact on the individual’s performance in school. Although most individuals with a learning disability have average or above-average intelligence, they perform poorly at school, as they are unable to learn through traditional approaches. The constant struggle in learning can make children experience poor self-esteem and feel isolated. They might also avoid areas they find challenging. Eg; a child finding it difficult to read might prefer audio and video mediums. Having an undiagnosed learning disorder can make school years an uphill battle for children as learning material and concepts become more complex with passing years. They might also be wrongly labelled as “slow” or “lazy” as their academic performances do not reflect their abilities.

Managing A Learning Disability:

Identifying and learning to manage a learning disorder is of utmost importance so it doesn’t limit a person’s academic potential or negatively impact other areas of their life. With the right training and guidance, people with a learning disability can attend regular school and go on to finish college.  

teacher helping child learn better

It might be overwhelming to learn that your child has been diagnosed with a learning disorder. But the truth is, the more you understand a learning disorder, the lesser intimidating it will seem. Children with a learning disorder are as smart as their peers. Their learning disability needn’t become an obstacle in their path to success. Learning disabilities affect different people in different ways. Therefore a thorough assessment can shed light on the areas they need help with and in understanding their unique learning style. Once they have a learning program that is tailored to their specific learning style and a learning approach that makes sense to them, managing their learning disability becomes much easier and barely an obstacle.  

If you have concerns about the learning challenges that your student or child face, reach out to our team at Tactopus, who can conduct a thorough assessment and guide you in the right direction.

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