As a parent, you work hard to give your child every advantage in life that you possibly can. It can be daunting to consider the notion that your child could have a learning disability, something you couldn’t foresee and that brings challenges through school and causes difficulty learning for the rest of their life.
Fortunately, early detection and intervention make it much easier for children with learning disabilities to learn how to adjust their strategies for learning and find success in the classroom and beyond. This is what we do on a daily basis at La Jolla Learning! Our experienced and caring educators put their passion to work supporting students with learning disabilities to improve motivation, study techniques, and develop the academic skills they struggle to acquire in the classroom. There is hope!
What Is a Learning Disability?
You’ve probably heard that children with learning disabilities have brains that are just “wired differently.” You may also have read that a learning disability is a neurological disorder, which can sound fairly daunting. So what does this all mean?
Scientifically speaking, the pathways in the brains of children with learning disabilities are structured differently from their non-learning-disabled peers. A study conducted by the University of Washington concluded that children with dyslexia and dysgraphia had fewer white matter connections and more functional connections to gray matter locations in their brains, causing their brains to work harder to accomplish the same language-oriented tasks as children without learning disabilities.
The study also demonstrated that there were differences observed in the brains of children with dyslexia vs. those with dysgraphia – which means that even though both disabilities are related to language processing, they’re distinctly different and may require different approaches for intervention.
When it comes to learning disabilities, symptoms are many and varied, and even children with the same learning disabilities can experience them differently. There is no one-size-fits-all bucket labeled “learning disabilities characteristics” – but that doesn’t mean the challenge of early identification and intervention is insurmountable.
What Causes Learning Disabilities?
The short answer is, there is no comprehensive list of causes of learning disabilities.
Research is still being done to understand what causes or increases the likelihood that a child will develop a learning disability. Some learning disabilities are genetic. Others may be caused by factors that influence fetal development, such as drugs or alcohol. Environmental factors during early childhood, such as nutrition and exposure to chemicals like lead, are also thought to increase the likelihood of a child developing a learning disability. Some learning disabilities, such as processing disorders, can be triggered by childhood illnesses.
Regardless of the causes of learning disorders, research consistently shows that early intervention is key for reducing the negative impact the learning disorder will have on a child’s ability to learn.
Common Learning Disabilities
- Dyslexia – A language-based learning disability that causes difficulty with reading and spelling. Individuals with dyslexia often have trouble identifying the separate speech sounds within words or remembering the correct order of letters when writing words. Dyslexia is a lifelong condition, but children can overcome the challenges it poses.
- ADD/ADHD – Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Hyper Deficit Disorder are medical conditions that affect brain development and activity. Children with ADD or ADHD often struggle with sustained attention and emotional control. If you are parenting a child with ADHD, we have some tips for ways you can provide your child with additional support at home.
- Processing Disorders – Processing disorders affect a person’s ability to use information derived from their senses (for example, someone with an auditory processing disorder may have trouble learning in a lecture format). It is important to note that processing disorders are unrelated to the functionality of the senses – a person with a visual processing disorder will not necessarily have a visual impairment.
- Executive Function Disorders – Executive functions include emotional control, impulse control, self-monitoring, working memory, flexible thinking, organization, task initiation, and prioritizing. Executive function disorders are caused by differences in the way the frontal lobe part of the brain functions.
Diagnosing a Learning Disability
The biggest challenge with figuring out whether or not your child could have a learning disability is that the warning signs are many and varied – and even children without a learning disability may display several of the symptoms. Add to that the fact that most classroom teachers are not properly trained in identifying learning disabilities, and children with learning disabilities are at a real disadvantage.
There are also many different types of learning disabilities, each with their own set of potential warning signs. For example, a child with dyslexia may struggle with reading and speaking, while a child with a sensory processing disorder may have difficulty controlling their impulses, especially in an overstimulating environment like a loud classroom. However, some children who struggle with language development early on may catch up with their peers over time, and some children without a disability may still struggle to focus and learn effectively in a distracting environment.
Learning disability testing is the most reliable way to determine whether or not your child has a learning disability. A typical learning disability assessment involves both a psychological evaluation of cognitive functioning as well as an academic evaluation, usually in the form of a standardized test. The academic evaluation will usually focus on how a student approaches and thinks through problem solving in addition to the answers they provide. Your child may be assessed at their school or in a private learning disability testing center depending on their needs and what works best for your family.
Seeking Help for Learning Disorders
If you think your child may have a learning disability, the first step is to understand the process of and resources available for assessing learning disabilities. Early detection via assessments and intervention in the form of educational therapy can be monumental in helping your child overcome the challenges presented by their learning disability.
Often, children with a diagnosed learning disability don’t actually qualify for special education support in schools. Even children who do qualify may struggle to get the help they need in a special education setting due to the extreme diversity of learning disorders and limited resources for personalized support.
This is where educational coaching can be absolutely key to a child’s success academically and personally. One-on-one attention and consistent, individualized support can make a huge difference in helping your child understand why they struggle with certain tasks and learn how to employ different strategies to make learning easier and more enjoyable for them.
Learning disabilities are very common, but that doesn’t make it any easier when your child is diagnosed with one. It’s important to realize that just because your child has a learning disability does not mean they are doomed to struggle with learning for the rest of their life.
With early intervention and educational coaching, your child can learn strategies that will enable them to be successful in the classroom and beyond!
Connect with us to learn more about how we can help your child overcome the challenges presented by their learning disability.