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Learning Disabilities and Children - Guidelines for Parents

 

 

What is a learning disability?

During the preschool years, children undergo rapid growth–physical, mental, and emotional. All these progress at different rates, hence it is important to know whether your child is ready and capable of succeeding in school. There are many reasons why a child may not be able to learn normally or as expected:
  • hearing problems
  • poor motivation
  • emotional problems
  • mental retardation

Some school-age children may have none of the above and still have trouble, learning in a school setting. These children may have normal or above normal intelligence and still find learning a major problem. This inability to reach their full potential is called a learning disability. In moss cases, the exact cause of learning disability is not known. Researchers believe that children with learning disabilities have a problem with the way the brain handles information. This hinders the normal learning process.

Learning disabilities often make children feel bad about themselves. Parents need to understand this and provide their children with love and support. What happens is exactly the opposite. Children are compared with others and ridiculed in front of strangers.

To understand the problem your child is going through, just imagine watching a picture on television distorted by "technical problems" at the station. Without anything wrong with the camera at the TV station or your TV set, the picture is not clear. Some malfunctioning in the workings of the TV station gives a distorted image. Similarly there may be nothing wrong in the way these children take in information; their sense of sight and sound is fine. The problem occurs in the way brain interprets the input eyes / ears have sent. It is easy to blame reading difficulties on the eyes. But, eyesight problems do not cause learning disabilities. The problem in brain function delays the normal learning process. For this reason, these children require special teaching methods.

A learning disability is not just a minor problem that simply goes away as children mature. A learning disability must be identified and treated early, if a child has to attain his true potential. If it isn't, it could lead to major emotional problems causing depression and withdrawal. Both factors are linked to school failure. Learning disabilities are not uncommon. They appear to be more common in boys than girls. More than 1 out of 10 students in public schools may be in need of special education. Of these, about half have some type of learning disability.

 

What are the causes of learning disabilities?

Some children are born into families with a history of learning disabilities. Others have risk factors that may make them more likely to have learning disabilities. These risk factors include:
  • low birth weight
  • stress before or after birth
  • treatment for cancer or leukemia
  • infections of the central nervous system
  • severe head injuries
What are the common problems these children experience?

At an early age, children with potential learning disabilities may define and translate symbols differently. They often do not understand what they see or hear. Some cannot grasp how letters make up words, how words make up sentences, and how sentences make up thoughts. Structured writings appear foreign. Experts use the term perceptual disability to describe these problems. These problems affect the way children follow oral instructions, copy from the blackboard, or recall what a teacher or parent has said. These children may often have problems organizing their assignments at school and at home.

 

What are the warning signs?

It may not be easy to detect learning disabilities in children. This type of problem does not reveal itself in a day or a week. There are warning signs, however, that can help parents know if their children have a learning disability. Parents should note if any of the situations listed below are present in their children before school entry:
  1. Delays in language development - By 2 1/2 years, most children should be able to put sentences together.
  2. Trouble with speech - By 3 years, others should understand what children say more than half of the time.
  3. Trouble with coordination - Just before kindergarten, children should be able to tie shoes, button a shirt or frock and hop.
  4. Short attention span- children between 3 and 5 years, should be able to sit still while being read a short story. (Attention span should increase with age during this period.)

A word of caution - Regard these signs as risk factors only. Remember that no child develops in the same manner or at the same pace. These signs may not always reveal a learning disability. If you have any questions about the proper activities for your child's age, talk to your pediatrician.

 

When is the best time to diagnose/ identifying a learning disability?

The sooner it is detected, the faster these children can receive special attention and treatment. Earlier on, these disabilities were not often recognized. Many children struggle; only a few learn to adjust to their weaknesses. Those who aren't able to adjust, suffer frustration and endure a series of life-long failures. This sometimes leads to school dropout, delinquency, and unemployment.

Children with undiagnosed learning disabilities could become angry and frustrated, leading to severe emotional problems. They often think they are dumb, although their intelligence is often above normal. Aggressive behavior, withdrawal, or depression could be the result. This, in turn, could worsen the existing trouble with reading, writing, spelling or simple calculations. Early treatment and special education can metamorphose these children.

Family love and support play major roles in helping children live with their learning disability. Love and caring by parents make children feel better about themselves. It also gives them a greater sense of confidence and inner strength. They need this now as well as later in life.

 

Who is most likely to suspect a learning disability?

The people who have the most contact with children are parents, nursery teachers, or family physicians/ pediatricians. Doctors or teachers can give screening tests to see if a problem really exists. Pediatricians can help the parents decide if further evaluation is needed. This may include examination by an ophthalmologist, ENT surgeon, language assessment by a speech therapist and/or a psychological work up by a psychologist.

 

Can learning disabilities be cured?

There is no cure for a learning disability. Despite the many frustrations, proper help from a number of professionals can make the difference. Children must learn to achieve and lead a fruitful life in spite of their disability. There are people and groups who offer simple answers or tonics for learning disabilities. Be cautious of these claims. Some proclaim special diets and exercise. Still others claim certain vitamins will provide much needed balance and cure the problem. Keep in mind there is no guidance to support any of these treatments. There are no quick fixes for a learning disability. Dealing with this problem is tough. It's often a lifelong battle.

 

What does the future hold for a child with learning disability?

Early identification and treatment cannot be stressed enough. Children with learning disabilities can become quite successful, with proper help. Famous people like Albert Einstein and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller rose above their disability and went on to achieve great personal and national goals. People who learn to overcome their disability can do great things in life. For children with a learning disability, nothing can replace a good educational program and proper medical management. Equally important are loving and supportive parents, family, and friends.