According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), approximately 1 in 5 children in the United States have learning and attention issues, which include specific learning disabilities. This means around 20% of school-age children have some form of learning disability.
The severity of the disability is unique to everyone, but each case involves a similar set of signs and symptoms.
What is a Learning Disability?
A learning disability is a neurological condition that affects the way an individual processes and learns information. This condition can affect various areas of learning, including reading, writing, math, listening, speaking, and reasoning. Children with learning disabilities may have difficulty acquiring and applying knowledge at the same rate or in the same way as their peers.
What are the 6 main types of learning disabilities?
While there are dozens of conditions that may hinder one’s ability to learn, medical professionals identify 6 main types:
1. Dyslexia: A language-based learning disability that affects reading, spelling, and writing skills. According to the International Dyslexia Association, the condition affects about 15-20% of the population.
2. Dyscalculia: A learning disability that affects math skills, including the ability to understand numbers and mathematical concepts. This condition is less common than Dyslexia, and the jury is out on the exact number of people affected, but it is estimated that 5% of the population may have this condition.
3. Dysgraphia: A learning disability that affects writing skills, including handwriting, spelling, and organizing ideas on paper. School-age children are more likely to hold this disability, and the estimated percentage of children affected hovers around 15%.
4. ADHD: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects attention, focus, and impulse control. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 6.1 million children between the ages of 2 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. ADHD is particularly challenging because it affects children beyond learning and can impact many areas of a child’s life.
5. Auditory Processing Disorder: A learning disability that affects how the brain processes auditory information, making it difficult to understand and interpret sounds and language. This disability is relatively uncommon, and its exact prevalence is not well-established.
6. Visual Processing Disorder: A learning disability that affects how the brain processes visual information, making it difficult to understand and interpret what is seen. Like its sister disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder, VPD is also uncommon.
Signs and symptoms of common learning disabilities
Most parents take an active interest in their child’s development from a very young age; however, it isn’t until a child becomes school-age that the symptoms of a learning disability begin to show. It is important not to compare your child with his siblings or peers because every individual develops differently, but it’s also best practice to know what behaviors and expectations are developmentally appropriate.
By Preschool or Kindergarten, your child should be able to connect sounds and letters, including pronouncing words. If your child has trouble counting, communicating, remembering recently taught information, or sitting still, you may want to initiate a conversation with his teachers and his pediatrician.
Signs or symptoms that point to a learning disability in Elementary school include forgetting newly learned information, inability to follow directions or routines, or a lack of impulse control.
Signs specific to Dyslexia include erratic spelling, difficulty blending letters, and unusual pronunciation of words. Children with Dysgraphia may have inconsistent and unclear handwriting, often blending upper- and lower-case letters, slants, and shapes in one example of print.
What should I do if I suspect my child has a learning disability?
There are many resources out there that can help a family identify a learning disability, including Lexercise’s Free Online Learning Disability Tests. While it’s important to note that only a medical professional can accurately diagnose a condition, the responses to these free assessments will help guide your conversation with your child’s healthcare provider.
How to diagnose a learning disability
If you’ve identified the signs and symptoms within your child’s development, the next step is to consult with his pediatrician. As with any diagnosis, particularly a neurological one, there is a process. Typically, a family will attend an initial screening, where the provider will ask questions about academic performance and behavior. The next step is a comprehensive evaluation, including several cognitive, academic, and behavioral tests completed by the child, parents, and teachers.
After evaluating the data, a provider will make his or her diagnosis. The follow-up includes recommendations for appropriate interventions and accommodations. This may include educational interventions that can be implemented within the child’s school through the process of an Individualized Education Plan or IEP.
If you are a parent of a neurodiverse learner, be sure to take stock of your own mental health as you navigate these uncertain waters. There are many opportunities for parents to connect and understand their children’s conditions. The Learning Disabilities Association of America provides a comprehensive list of support and resources for parents of children with learning disabilities at Support and Resources for Parents – Learning Disabilities Association of America.
Understanding Your Child’s Learning Disability
Understanding, working with, supporting, and being patient with children with learning disabilities is crucial for their overall well-being and academic success. Remember: a child is a child, and a child with a learning disability will struggle in ways that his peers do not. It is our responsibility to honor and protect the essence of childhood, promoting the welfare and healthy development of our children by supporting them in every way we can.
Here are some strategies that may help:
Educate Yourself: Take the time to educate yourself about the specific learning disability that your child has. Understand its characteristics, challenges, and strengths. This knowledge will help you develop empathy and a deeper understanding of his unique needs.
Create a Supportive Environment: Foster an inclusive and supportive environment where your child feels safe and accepted. Encourage open communication and provide opportunities for him to express his feelings and concerns.
Patience and Understanding: Children with learning disabilities may require more time and support to complete tasks or comprehend information. Practice patience and offer understanding during her learning journey. Avoid rushing or pressuring her, as it can increase her stress levels and hinder progress.
Encourage Strengths and Interests: Identify and nurture your child’s strengths and interests. Focusing on her talents can boost self-esteem and motivation. Provide opportunities for her to excel in areas where she feels confident and empowered.
Celebrate Effort and Progress: Recognize and celebrate the effort and progress your child makes, regardless of the outcome. Encourage a growth mindset, emphasizing that mistakes are part of the learning process, and each step forward is an achievement worth celebrating.
By creating a supportive and inclusive environment, fostering her strengths, and providing targeted interventions, you can help your child thrive and reach her full potential. Above all, remember to be patient, celebrate progress, and provide unwavering support and love throughout the learning journey.
Embrace your child’s unique learning style with The Broach School. We turn learning disabilities into steppingstones toward success in a supportive and inclusive environment. Don’t wait to transform your child’s educational experience. Call us at 904-637-0300 today, and let’s embark on this empowering journey together. At The Broach School, your child’s success is our mission.