The term learning disabilities is a general term used to describe any problem with learning and certain skills. The most often affected learning skills are reading, writing, listening, speaking, reasoning and math. According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) a specific learning disability is defined as “(10) Specific learning disability – (i) General. Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.
(ii)Disorders not included. Specific Learning disability does not included learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. [34 CFR &300.8(c)(10)].”
Children with specific learning disabilities (SLD) exhibit average or above average intelligence but problems occur with the way in which their brain processes information. The more typical way of determining if a child has a specific learning disability is by comparing IQ (intelligence or ability) to their achievement level. The student who continually achieves less than expected in reading decoding, reading comprehension, math calculations, math operations and/or written language may need assistance to re mediate learning problems. The child may need special education services but it is important to know that students with learning disabilities can and do learn at very high levels and become very successful in life. Two examples of men who overcame specific learning disabilities are Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison.
Learning disabilities are very common and as many as 1 out of every 5 people in the United States has some type of learning disability. When a child has a learning disability, some of the signs may be:
- Trouble learning the alphabet, rhyming words, or connecting letters to their sounds
- Make frequent mistakes when reading out loud
- Exhibit problems understanding what was read
- Difficulty spelling
- Messy handwriting or holding the pencil in an awkward position
- Struggle to express their ideas in writing
- Learn language later than the typical child and have a limited vocabulary
- Trouble remembering sounds of letters or hearing differences in words
- Problems understanding jokes, comic strips or sarcasm
- Trouble following directions
- Difficulty organizing thoughts
- Social problems
- Confuse math symbols and misread numbers
- Inability to know where to start a task or how to proceed to the next step
If you are concerned that your child may have a learning disability, contact the school district (start with the building principal) and request that they conduct an individualized evaluation under IDEA (federal special education law) to determine if, in fact, a learning disability is causing your child’s difficulties in school.