Childhood Learning Disorders

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It is estimated that 5% to 20% of school-age children in the United States, mostly boys, suffer from learning disabilities.

The signs of learning disorders may be identified by parents or teachers when a child consistently has difficulty with any, or all, of the following:

Learning Disabilities

Understandably, one of the first questions parents ask when they learn their child has a learning disorder is “Why? What went wrong?”

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Mental health professionals stress that since no one knows what causes learning disabilities, it doesn’t help parents to look backward to search for possible reasons. There are too many possibilities to pin down the cause of the disability with certainty. It is far more important for the family to move forward in finding ways to get the fight help.

Scientists, however, do need to study causes in an effort to identify ways to prevent learning disabilities.

Once, scientists thought that all learning disabilities were caused by a single neurological problem. But research supported by NIMH has helped us see that the causes are more diverse and complex. New evidence seems to show that most learning disabilities do not stem from a single, specific area of the brain, but from difficulties in bringing together information from various brain regions.

Today, a leading theory is that learning disabilities stem from subtle disturbances in brain structures and functions. Some scientists believe that, in many cases, the disturbance begins before birth.

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When a child has a learning disability, he or she:

  • may have trouble learning the alphabet, rhyming words, or connecting letters to their sounds;
  • may make many mistakes when reading aloud, and repeat and pause often;
  • may not understand what he or she reads;
  • may have real trouble with spelling;
  • may have very messy handwriting or hold a pencil awkwardly;

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  • may struggle to express ideas in writing;
  • may learn language late and have a limited vocabulary;
  • may have trouble remembering the sounds that letters make or hearing slight differences between words;
  • may have trouble understanding jokes, comic strips, and sarcasm;
  • may have trouble following directions;
  • may mispronounce words or use a wrong word that sounds similar;
  • may have trouble organizing what he or she wants to say or not be able to think of the word he or she needs for writing or conversation;
  • may not follow the social rules of conversation, such as taking turns, and may stand too close to the listener;
  • may confuse math symbols and misread numbers;
  • may not be able to retell a story in order (what happened first, second, third)

Children with dyslexia may reverse letters and numbers, making language arts skills and speech challenging. Children with trouble with basic math skills as well as understanding time and money have dyscalculia.  Dysgraphia causes problems with handwriting, spelling, and idea organization.  Some children have great difficulty with motor skills, both gross and fine, which affects their ability to properly hold a pencil, button a shirt, or run and jump.  This disorder is known as dyspraxia.

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A comprehensive evaluation by educational and mental health professionals includes educational and psychological testing, as well as talking with the child and parents.

A comprehensive evaluation identifies whether a child has a learning disorder as well as learning strengths and weaknesses. Results of the evaluation are used to determine educational needs, identify the best school placement, determine the possible need for medication to help with distractibility or hyperactivity, and determine the possible benefit of any additional therapies such as speech therapy or family psychotherapy to maximize the child’s learning potential and quality of life.

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CAUSES and RISK FACTORS:
No one knows for sure what causes learning disorders. Sometimes there is no apparent reason.

Studies have shown that possible risk factors include:

Heredity….Maybe learning problems run in your family.

Did you have Pregnancy problems like fetal exposure to alcohol or drugs, low birth weight, oxygen deprivation or premature birth?

Were there any accidents after Birth?……Any Head Injury’s, malnutrition or toxic exposure can increase a child’s risk of having learning disorders.

Social-Environments……If you are living in a high risk neighborhood and in poor living conditions this has been linked to children being more vulnerable.

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Boy or Girl…..There have been no significant differences found between boys and girls. However there are more than twice the amount of boys in special education programs than girls. More boys have been evaluated, and identified and placed in Special Education than girls.

How Do You Parent  Child with a Learning Disorder….If you are raising a child with a learning disorder it is very challenging and often causes parents great stress and anxiety.  To Help this Parents should follow these Guidelines……

Try to get homework done right after arriving home.

Give out Praise when the child does something well.  This Builds confidence and can Motivate your child to work harder on weak areas.

Do you know how your child learns best.  Some children learn best with visual instruction while others learn better through Auditory Instruction.  Some need hands-on instruction to process new information.

Are you Networking with Other Parents of Children with Learning Disorders?  You can learn from these parents some things they are doing that might help you.

Get to know the child’s teacher and other school personnel.

 

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Always communicate with them about your child’s progress and pertinent information.

Did you know these people have a Learning Disorder?

Ludwig Beethoven  (Composer)

Thomas Edison ( Inventor)

Leonardo DaVinci (Artist)

Tom Cruise (Actor)

Winston Chruchill (British Prime Minister)

Bruce Jenner (Athlete)

Whoopi Goldberg (Actress)

Cher (Singer)

Are you working with your child at Home?

Try to learn more about Learning Disabilities.  Find out what types of learning tasks are hard and easy for your child, so you can work with the strengths and improve the weaknesses.  Which way does your child learn better…..seeing, listening, or touching?

Support their self-esteem. Most children think that failing in reading means personal failure and stupidity.  Go and find books for children that talk about disabilities.  Involve your child in an activity they enjoy and may really excel in like…..sports, dance, art, music, karate.

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READ…..READ….AND READ SOME MORE!  One of the biggest stumbling blocks for children with Learning Disabilities is to avoid this.  Exposure can improve reading!  Make it a fun activity.  Go to the library each week and make sure the book is at their reading level.  Have a Family Reading time each Night.  Turn off the television and if some nights you have the television on put on the Closed-Caption to display text on the bottom of the scree.  This will increase slight word vocabulary.

If you have a computer, find programs on Phonics Building.  If you child is resistant to reading with you every night take turns reading a book, and pick a  book that will keep their interest. When it is the parent’s turn let them follow along with their finger.

How to Deal with Homework

You need to designate  a quiet, and organized place to complete homework.

Set a time for homework and STICK TO IT!

Organize homework ahead of time, and then break it into small chunks. Once they have completed a section allow them to have Break Time.

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You could set a timer and have your child do something active during the break to ready their brain for learning.  Do not Turn on the TV.  Give the child lots of encouragement if they really try and work hard.  Always focus on the correct answers.  You can break up Spelling Words to a few words a day.

Use a Highlighter to focus attention on the important information they need to learn.  Take this example…if a math paper has addition and subtraction, have your child highlight all of the subtraction signs (-) so it brings attention to it.

Use a Multi-sensory Approach to learning.  To study spelling words have your child write them in a cookie sheet full of sand, or pudding, or even whipping cream!   (Sensory)  Another way to do this is write the word on a large piece of paper with crayon.  Have your child use their finger to trace the word while simultaneously saying it outloud  (Visual and Auditory).

Use pictures to go with the word for better associations and memory.

Try to apply what they are leaning to everyday life.  Teach fractions and measuring while involving them in cooking.  Write a letter to a rock star.  Platy letter and word games in the car.

Really Important…..GIVE THEM TIME.  Let them think and answer.  Don’t just jump in even though we want to.  If may take them a few minutes to process the question asked.

“Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.

 

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Below are some other great sites to learn more about this……

 Learning Disabilities Association of America (formerly ACLD, the Association for Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities). 4156 Library Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15234-1349. Telephone: (412) 341-1515. Web site...ldaamerica.org/

 

National Center for Learning Disabilities – Discusses what a learning disability is, how parents and school personnel can work together, and the social and emotional challenges of learning disorders

Learning Disabilities – Kid–friendly and encouraging article about learning disabilities, including signs, causes and help. (Teens Health)

LD Basics – A wealth of information describing the full spectrum of learning disabilities and how to spot them, plus advice for parents on responding and getting help. (ldonline.org)

 “Navigating Learning Disabilities and The Cost for Treatment”  Unfortunately, some families may be forced to pay out of pocket for treatment costs so their child can get the help they need. To help with this issue, this site is a resource that outlines treatment plans and how to afford them based on the type of disability.
Good Luck,
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