Children and adults can be diagnosed with a learning disability at any time in their life. Many times, children go undiagnosed because learning disabilities are difficult to identify. It is estimated that 4 to 6 percent of the entire population has a learning disability (Source: PBS).
Children do not outgrow learning disabilities; this is a common misconception. A learning disability does not go away with time; however, there are ways a learning disability can be managed as your child ages.
In this article, you will learn more about learning disabilities diagnosed in childhood and how they may impact your child over time. You will also learn about some common learning disabilities and how to help your child struggling with them.
Can A Child Outgrow A Learning Disability?
Your child will not outgrow their learning disorder. However, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, most learning disabilities do not negatively impact your child’s life. It can make schooling a lot more challenging though!
Before being diagnosed, you may notice your child struggling in different areas, like focus, coordination, or other behavioral issues.
What Is A Learning Disability?
A learning disability impacts a child’s ability to see, hear, and think in some capacity. This mainly includes having difficulties interpreting information. Learning disabilities are disorders that have been diagnosed by a doctor. Some children may be diagnosed with more than one learning and intellectual disability.
Some symptoms commonly seen with many learning disabilities include:
- Difficulty with words, both written and spoken
- Poor Coordination
- Poor Self-control
- Poor Attention
- Reading and writing difficulties
- Trouble with math concepts and numbers
Another misconception about learning disabilities is that they define your child as less smart, which is not true. Many children with learning disabilities require a different approach to learning. OT can be a great treatment program for children with learning disabilities, especially those with nonverbal learning disabilities.
How Is A Learning Disability Diagnosed?
A doctor must diagnose a learning disability. These types of disabilities are considered neurological disorders. A learning disability is usually first noticed in the classroom by the child’s teacher. If a teacher brings up some troublesome events or struggles your child is having that are considered out of the ordinary, it may be time to see a doctor.
The following are some key signs to look for if you suspect your child may have a learning disability:
- Delays in language development and difficulty with spoken language
- Poor understanding of facial expressions and body language
- A short attention span
- Becoming angry or frustrated easily when trying to learn
- Difficulty following directions
- Poor handwriting
- Trouble understanding reading, writing, and math
- Difficulty sitting still
- Impulsive actions and behavior
According to Healthy Children, if you notice any of these factors, you should consult your child’s doctor and teacher to discuss the possibilities. A diagnosed learning disorder is much easier to move through life with than an undiagnosed one.
What Causes A Child to Have A Learning Disability?
Many doctors currently think that brain disturbances cause learning disabilities before the child is even born. However, the exact cause of learning disabilities is still unknown and highly debated. Nonetheless, it is commonly thought that disruptions in brain development can lead to a learning disability.
Other potential causes of learning disabilities that have not been proven include the following:
- Genetics – Some indicate genetic links between brain dysfunction and heredity
- Environment – Toxins present in the home or how the parents interact with their children
- Drugs during pregnancy – Tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs all impact the growing fetus
- Stress on the baby’s body before or during birth – Temporary loss of oxygen or infections
- Childhood chemotherapy or radiation treatments – A focus is on children who had brain tumors from an early age
Even though there are many theories on what causes a learning disability to develop, there is no definitive answer to what causes a learning disorder. Because there are no specific causes that can be identified, there are no specific treatments for learning disorders.
Nonetheless, the management of a learning disorder is entirely possible, and there are several ways to support your child if they have learning disorders.
Who Can Be Diagnosed with A Learning Disability?
Anyone can be diagnosed with a learning disability – whether they are a child or an adult. Being diagnosed earlier in life helps children understand why they may be struggling so much in certain areas of learning or life. No matter when you are diagnosed with a learning disorder finding the right support makes all the difference.
What Are the Most Common Learning Disabilities?
There are a few learning disabilities that are more common than others. Learning disabilities generally fall into two categories: developmental speech and language disorders and academic skills disorders. A third category covers a variety of other disorders not covered within the first two categories.
Here are three learning disabilities that are commonly diagnosed among children:
- Dyslexia – Trouble with reading and letters
- Dyscalculia – Trouble with math and numbers
- Dysgraphia – Trouble with writing
Some people also consider attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD, a learning disability, but it is technically not correct. Quite often, however, ADHD co-occurs with another specific learning disability or specific learning disabilities.
Moreover, the struggles a child faces because of their learning disorder are not only in the classroom. Here are other areas, like executive functioning skills, where children or adults with learning disabilities tend to struggle:
- Being organized
- Handling, saving, and managing money
- Telling time on an analog clock
- Reading maps
How to Help A Child with A Learning Disability
When your child is first diagnosed, it can be overwhelming. Since there is no known cause for these disabilities, it can be very difficult to understand.
The following points are different ways you can help support your child through learning basic skills:
- Celebrate even the smallest of achievements.
- Stay positive.
- Work on building other skills.
- Find a local support group or therapist.
- Remind your child that being diagnosed with a learning disability does not define them.
The most important thing to remember is that a learning disorder does not make a child less intelligent or hinder them from being successful and happy.
Is A Learning Disability Different from A Learning Preference or Learning Difference?
Many people have different ways of learning. These ways are sometimes described as preferences, styles, or differences, and they are different from a learning disorder, as a learning disability impacts actual neurological functioning.
The difficulties a child with learning disorders face cannot be changed. These children cannot simply try harder or be more adaptable to different ways of learning. However, a child with a learning preference, style, or difference can learn to embrace and even excel with other learning methods.
A learning disorder is a lifetime diagnosis, and your child will not outgrow it. However, the diagnosis should not make you upset, scared, or overwhelmed. As a parent, teacher or caregiver the best thing you can do is teach your child techniques, basic skills & motor skills that they can use as strategies to help manage the child’s learning disability.
Even though it can heavily impact your child’s school experience, both academic performance and socially through language skills and poor organizational skills; there have been many strides made in understanding learning complications both diagnosed and non-diagnosed.
Ultimately adding early intervention coping strategies to your child’s learning process will help your child’s self esteem as they grow up with this life-long condition.
Today, schools have special programs to address learning disorders. Occupational Therapists can address learning disorders by teaching your child ways to control their behavior and other coping or learning strategies.