Learning disabilities can be very frustrating for parents and the children that have them. They may be labeled as “dumb” or “stupid” by peers. However this is far from the case! Children with learning disabilities are often just as smart, and sometimes smarter, than their peers – they just have more problems getting information in and out. With approximately fifteen percent of people having some form of learning disability or another, it is a lot more common than you may think.
Learning is actually a pretty complicated process. First information is input into the brain, from the 5 senses. The brain must then make sense of all the information being gathered and store it in memory for later retrieval. Then the brain must send back a message to the rest of the body. Learning disabilities scramble the process.
The first type of learning disability is one that interferes with the input of information to the brain. This can cause a child to see letters and numbers rotated or switched around. The letter “E” can look like “W”, “3”, or “M”. Or the child may switch letters around in a word, causing “was” to look like “saw”. This is usually perceptible once the child starts to write or copy letters. Other input problems can focus more on movement and objects. It may keep a child from focusing on things that are up close, or they may have a problem understanding left from right. Other input learning disabilities involve hearing. Some children cannot distinguish between voices and background noises, making it very easy for them to unintentionally tune a teacher or adult out.
Other learning disabilities have to do with the brain actually processing the information. Abstract thinking may be difficult. Children may be unable to remember what sequence letters in a word go in. They may be unable to retell a story in the correct order, or copy a sentence off of a chalkboard. They may be unable to understand the difference in word shadings, such as “the cat” and “your cat”.
Lastly, a child may have a learning disability involving getting information back out into the world. This can manifest as a language difficulty where the child can speak but not answer simple questions. Or it can be more of a motor disability where the child appears clumsy and uncoordinated.
If your child has a learning disability, the best thing that you can do is get informed. Once you understand the condition, you can change teaching styles or get therapy to assist your child.