Right from birth, children keep learning many things on a daily basis. Some kids are quick learners and some are slow learners. Every child is unique and he will learn things in his own way. Some kids learn to speak faster, whereas some kids learn it at a little slower rate. As a parent, we constantly compare our kids with his peers and worry about the child’s progress. Even if the parents are not worrying, the extended family and well-meaning neighbors keep a tab on our children and keep putting pressure on us. So, we need to understand the basic premise of learning disabilities in children, before we can brand our own child or someone else’s child as a slow learner.
What are Learning Disabilities?
Learning disability is a term used to describe the neurological differences in which the brain receives, processes, and sends information. The way, brain processes the information results in a slow development of the various mental capabilities like reading, writing, understanding math concepts, or at times talking too.
But in some kids, the above-mentioned problems can be handled with little extra care by introducing different activities, which spark their curiosity. In few other children, they might result into the learning disorders like hyperactivity (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, etc
Also, please note that all the kids who have difficulties in learning need not have learning disorders. They can be limited to learning disabilities and can be corrected with sustained support from the elders (both the parents and teachers).
What causes the Learning Disabilities in Children?
Research has shown that most of the learning disabilities are either genetic or due to some problem in the brain structure of the children. It might be that the chemicals in the brain are not getting supplied to the right place of the brain or might not be getting produced properly. As a result of this only, the child’s brain is not able to receive, send or process the information properly.
Most of the adult caretakers and teachers are not aware of the learning disabilities. So they either brand the child as being plain lazy or as the kid with learning disorders without understanding where the child is struggling or where the child needs the support. Only recently, the term Learning Disabilities have started appearing in the Indian Educational system, but teachers are yet to be fully trained on this concept. Till then, we as parents have to be vigilant and identify if our child is suffering from any of the learning disabilities. If yes, we need to discuss with their teachers and work out a plan to support these kids. All the kids with learning disabilities don’t really require the special education which is needed for the kids with learning disorders.
Diagonising a Learning Disability
The following are the signs that indicate that a child is suffering from a learning disability. Also, please note that these are only indicative and can vary from child to child.
He lacks interest in reading and writing
He has trouble focussing on a single task
He works at a slower pace when compared to the other kids
Trouble following directions from an adult
Shies away from making the eye contact
Has trouble memorizing the things.
Doesn’t mingle freely with his peers.
The above-mentioned symptoms could be found even in a shy or introverted kid when he goes into a new class or school. That’s another reason why the teachers are failing to identify the symptoms of any learning disorder in kids. In fact, with the new-found knowledge about the child’s mental health, most of the teachers are jumping the guns in making this diagnosis. (I am not generalizing here about all the teachers here, but this is also happening).
A shy or introverted child would also be exhibiting some or most of the symptoms above outside his home. But within his home or safe surroundings, he can be a talkative and happy kid. That’s the reason why the parents have to be more vigilant to watch for the signs of learning disabilities.
Typically Mostly the children with learning disabilities suffer in the following three areas:
As per a study conducted by the American Association of Pediatrics, around 2-8% of the children suffer from reading disability and have dyslexia. But in the same study, they also mentioned that some kids learn reading at a slower rate when compared to the others with a little additional help from the adults. So, that’s the reason why parents have to observe in which area of the reading the child is having problems with. Is it with recognizing the letters and sounds associated with letters, or understanding what they read, or separating the different sounds while reading a single word? Once we pay little careful attention to our child’s reading abilities, then we can clearly understand whether it’s a reading disorder or just a reading disability.
If in doubt, we can consult our pediatrician, who can undertake the necessary testing to identify the real root cause, so that we can address it properly.
Initially, while starting the writing most of the kids do write badly. But with practice, they will learn good handwriting. The symptoms we need to be watchful to identify the writing disability are Irregular handwriting even after a lot of practice, omission of words or letters in sentences, writing some letters in a reverse way, difficulty in writing on a single line, problems in converting the thoughts into writing, etc.
The kids who have consistent trouble identifying the numbers, (they read 35 as 53), not able to solve even simple addition and subtraction activities using mental math, are the ones we need to be watchful for and consult an expert for further guidance. These kids will not be able to understand the word problems and solve them, even after teaching them multiple times. They fail to recollect the number sequences or the numeric operations.
When to Seek Help?
As with any other mental ailments, early intervention is always the best cure even for Learning Disabilities and learning disorders. The children with both learning disabilities or learning disorders will start losing motivation to attend school, as they can very well recognize that they are falling behind their peers in those areas. This drains off their confidence levels and will cause anxiety and depression in kids.
So, as parents, we need to be vigilant about the learning progress of our kids and get help from the experts or professionals at the earliest. They would first conduct few tests before ascertaining the problem and then suggest the occupational therapist or a special educator. Occupational therapists would be able to work on the learning disabilities, but special educators are required for the learning disorders. Occupational therapists give the much-needed boost in reading and writing to the kids in a fun-filled way. So that, they can increase their skills in those areas.
So, that way we can help the child develop the coping strategies to overcome their learning disabilities or learning disorders. They will be able to leverage their strengths in the other areas to overcome these problems easily if we can provide timely intervention.