Disabilities and Children - Guidelines for Parents
|What is a learning
During the preschool years, children undergo rapid growthphysical, 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
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
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
- 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
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:
- Delays in language development - By 2 1/2 years, most children should be able to put
- Trouble with speech - By 3 years, others should understand what children say more than
half of the time.
- Trouble with coordination - Just before kindergarten, children should be able to tie
shoes, button a shirt or frock and hop.
- 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.
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.
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.