Is there a disparity between your child’s verbal and mathematical skills? Do teachers report difficulties with following instructions and completing assignments? Does school work present a constant source of frustration?
Your child may have a learning disability, but they are not alone. In fact, the National Center for Learning Disorders estimates that 1 in 5 children struggle with attention and learning disorders.
Specific learning disabilities (SLD)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), defines SLDs as disorders that affect language skills, mathematical skills and other discreet skills due to a disorder in one or more of the child’s psychological processes. This definition distinguishes these disorders from ones caused by intellectual, emotional or physical challenges. Below are a few types of SLDs and their symptoms to help you identify whether your child may have an SLD:
Dyslexia affects a child’s ability to read and perform other language-related activities. While the severity may differ, dyslexia appears most often as an inability to decode errors. Your child may see letters in the incorrect order or turned backwards, making it difficult to read, write and correct spelling errors. Many children with dyslexia have far greater comprehension when listening to a story as opposed to reading it.
Dysgraphia is closely related to dyslexia. Also a language-related barrier, dysgraphia affects your child’s ability to write and perform other fine motor skills. Your child’s handwriting may appear as a mixture of printing and cursive writing or upper and lower case letters. They may exhibit great difficulty in appropriately spacing letters within a word, words within a sentence and words across a page. It can also be very difficult for your child to think and write at the same time.
Dyspraxia is also related to dyslexia, though it affects speech. Your child may confuse words within a sentence, such as placing the subject at the end of the sentence. Comprehension is often higher than the ability to speak in a way that others can understand.
Auditory Processing Disorder (ADP) leaves children unable to distinguish between clearly different sounds or spoken words. Your child may understand the difference between “ball” and “bell” when they read the words, but they may confuse the two when they are spoken. Your child may find it difficult to follow spoken directions because the language is too rushed and confusing. They may also find it hard to block out background noise to focus on speech.
Language Processing Disorder (LPD) is a subsection of ADP. LDP affects language skills only, as opposed to including other sounds. Primarily, children with LPD not only have difficulty expressing their thoughts but also in understanding what others mean when they are spoken to. Your child may be frustrated because they have so many thoughts but no way to verbalize them in a meaningful manner.
Dyscalculia affects somewhere between 5% and 7% of school-age children. Dyscalculia goes beyond having trouble grasping a new math concept. Children with dyscalculia may take longer to learn to count and exhibit difficulty in recognizing numbers, especially in correlating a number (7) with its written counterpart (seven). In higher-level mathematics, dyscalculia can interfere with a child’s ability to comprehend word problems due a lack of understanding of the relationship between words and numbers.
Visual/Perceptual Motor Deficit expresses itself in an inability to notice differences in shapes. Younger children may find it difficult to cut and paste. Older children may complain that words and letters go in and out of focus. Reading, writing and even finding the right path from one class to another can be challenging activities for them.
Non-verbal learning disabilities
Unlike SLDs, non-verbal learning disabilities are not covered by IDEA. Children with non-verbal learning disabilities can speak, write and understand language and perform well in mathematics. However, they may have great difficulty understanding inflection, body language and other non-verbal cues.
Your child may behave inappropriately in a variety of social occasions and have trouble forming friendships. They may not understand the subtle teasing tones of other children, or they may not grasp the gravity of a funeral if the minister smiles softly.
The cause of non-verbal learning disabilities is still not known. As such, it is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, even though it is as debilitating as other learning disabilities.
What can I, as a parent, do for my child?
As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. If they seem to be behind in reaching certain milestones, let your pediatrician know of your concerns.
Teachers are another great resource for interpreting your child’s behavior. Compare your notes regarding your child’s development to their teacher’s evaluation. If you both come to the same conclusion, request an evaluation. It is much easier to learn how to cope with a learning disability when it is caught early in life.
Learn everything you can about your child’s diagnosis
Information is your best weapon against frustration – both on your part and your child’s. Your child isn’t “stupid” or “lazy.” Together with teachers and other professionals, you and your child simply need to learn new ways around these roadblocks.
Sometimes, children with dyslexia simply need to use a ruler while reading to keep them focused on one line of text at a time. Children with ADP may need a quiet place to concentrate on homework without trying to filter out background noise.
Try working within your child’s classroom to request reasonable accommodations and an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). Together, these two resources could make quite a difference in your child’s attitude towards school and learning.
Consider external resources
While schools are required to provide qualified children with an IEP, they don’t always have the resources to follow through with as much individualized attention as your child may need. Even starting the process with a school-sponsored diagnosis can be difficult. The signs of your child’s distress may be subtle and easily missed by a teacher overwhelmed with a classroom full of students.
Educational institutions also often use a “one-size-fits-most” approach, even when creating an IEP. Limited funding and resources can restrain their ability to provide all of the resources that would most benefit your child.
Seeking assistance from a compassionate organization such as Therapeutic Options can enrich your child’s IEP with highly specialized tools.
Our team can take the plans developed in conjunction with your child’s school and build on them to develop a robust learning experience that can grow with your child and your family.
A learning disability is not the end of the world. It is simply the creation of a new learning experience.
To learn more about how Therapeutic Options can help you and your child, contact us today.