What is a Learning Disability?
A Learning Disability is a neurological condition that interferes with an individual’s ability to store, process, or produce information.
A child with a learning disability will have a low level of ability in one or more areas such as reading, spelling, writing and doing maths, when his educational opportunities, age and other abilities are taken into account.
Learning disabilities are sometimes called ‘Specific Learning Disabilities’ or ‘Learning Difficulties’ or ‘Specific Learning Difficulties’ or even ‘Dyslexia’ (which is a specific Learning Disability that affects reading and related language-based processing skills).
What are the signs to look for in children?
If your child has a learning disability, he/she might:
- dislike reading and/or find reading hard
- have lots of trouble spelling common words
- find it hard to spot the sounds and syllables in words
- tell you lots of interesting ideas but find writing them down slow and difficult
- have very messy handwriting
- not feel very confident about schoolwork
How to diagnose if you child has a Learning Disability
If you’re worried that your child is having trouble at school and might have a learning disability, you could start by talking with your child’s teacher.
You can ask questions about whether your child is progressing as expected with reading, writing and maths. It might also be worth talking about the teacher’s impression of your child’s self-esteem and engagement at school. The teacher can test your child and go through the results with you. This can help you see whether there’s a pattern of problems.
How to assist children with a Learning Disability
Always praise your child for having a go at something. Celebrate your child’s abilities and achievements. Make time to be with them and listening to them. Make sure to have fun together and encourage your child to try new things. Give your child the chance to take on family responsibilities and make his/her own decisions and choices. Support but don’t overprotect your child. Above all, give your child the opportunity to try new things.
What should you as a parent do?
Children who have learning disabilities can’t do simple things like reading as easily as their peers can. This can lead them to think of themselves as ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’.
You should tell your child that he/she has a learning disability which can help him/her overcome this way of thinking. You can also tell your child that having a learning disability means that their brain thinks about information differently, but it doesn’t mean he/she is not as smart as other children.
The most important thing you must determine is the source of your child’s learning problem. If you act early, you will gain the peace of mind that comes with knowing what is causing your child’s learning difficulties. You will also be helping to ensure that he/she overcomes his/her struggles and enjoys success in school.
Is there a medically-driven way to treat Learning Disability?
You may ask for a formal assessment through your school. A speech therapist or a psychologist could be involved at this point. They’ll help to check all the possible causes. If there’s a long wait, or the assessment isn’t available through your school, you can arrange to see a specialist privately.
Another option that might be available, depending on where you live, is to contact your local university. Most universities have psychology and speech therapy clinics where postgraduate students assess children under the supervision of an expert professional.