Let’s start with one important fact: learning disabilities and intelligence are two different things. You can have a learning disability and be highly intelligent – even brilliant. With the right kind of support, you can meet your potential.
When should I be concerned?
Symptoms of learning disabilities vary from person to person, and from one cause to the next. Stevenson, Waplak & Associates has a more complete list of symptoms by age group – but here are a few very general warning signs:
- difficulties pronouncing words, and being slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
- extreme restlessness or distractability
- poor and/or slow recall of facts
- problems making friends; find it difficult to read body language and facial expressions
- consistent reading and spelling errors, especially confusing similar-looking letters (eg. b/d, m/w) or math symbols.
- tendency to avoid reading and writing tasks; extremely messy handwriting
If you notice any of these symptoms – or a combination of them – contact a professional to have a proper assessment/evaluation done. Learning disabilities are commonly diagnosed by a trained professional using a combination of tests and factors.
What is a “learning disability” – and will it go away?
A learning disability is a disorder that affects the brain’s ability to receive and process information. The causes can vary, and some forms are incurable.
However, some learning disabilities do go away, and most can be managed and overcome with the right techniques and/or treatments. Actress Whoopi Goldberg, Olympian Bruce Jenner, comedian Jay Leno and even author Agatha Christie are just a few of the people on this list from CNN of leaders and celebrities with dyslexia, the most common learning disability.
Finding out what’s causing the challenge and what you can do about it is the first step to moving beyond its limitations..
Some common types of learning disabilities
Dyslexia, Dyspraxia (Sensory Integration Disorder), Auditory Processing Disorder and Visual Processing Disorder are common types of learning disabilities.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is not traditionally seen as a learning disorder, but because the symptoms can have a real impact on an individuals ability to learn it is increasingly included as one.
As described by the Learning Disability Association of Ontario, learning disabilities are generally grouped by their symptoms:
- learning disabilities that affect organization and focus
- learning disabilities that affect social life
- learning disabilities that affect physical interaction with the world
- learning disabilities that affect academics
Why treatment matters
If you or your child has a learning disability, traditional teaching styles won’t work – and repetition is unlikely to help either. Because these disabilities affect each person differently, a taylored treatment plan should be developed that may include:
- Increased individual or small group instruction
- Additional time for written assignments
- A different instructional style
- Better teacher awareness of his/her strengths
- The right behavioral management plan
Once the cause is properly identified, understanding and self-confidence will grow.