The ultimate guide to identify and help kids with the most common learning disabilities
If you are reading this blog, the chances are that you are already aware of what learning disabilities are. To reiterate, learning disabilities are genetic/neurological conditions that affect the process of learning and cognition in humans. This can show up as an inability to pronounce certain words, a problem with numbers, or a lack of motor coordination.
In India, the awareness and identification of learning disabilities have been very recent. However, as per the Indian Tribune, around 15% of all school-going kids in India have dyslexia. The majority of cases of LD are brushed off as laziness or stupidity, resulting in millions of kids living undiagnosed. Having an LD not only affects a child’s academic performance but also their everyday interpersonal relationships.
Common learning disabilities
Broadly speaking, the common types of learning disabilities fall into three categories:
Speaking Disabilities: Among LD affecting speech, dyslexia is the most well-known. It is also one of the most prevalent type of learning disabilities. Dyslexia affects the reading and language-based processing skills of the kid. It can manifest in various ways ranging from no phonetic awareness aka not connecting letters to sound, difficulty with rhymes, letter reversals and poor spelling and grammar.
Writing disabilities: Dysgraphia and Dyspraxia affects the writing skills of a child, manifesting as a bad grip on pencils and poor handwriting. The LD affects fine motor skills, and the child might have trouble with spacing, spatial planning on paper, little to no awareness of margins, slow pace and writing in a straight line.
Reason and Processing: Lastly, this category includes ADHD, Dyscalculia and Autism. Dyscalculia affects a person’s ability to understand math and remember numerical facts. Children can have trouble remembering the order of numbers, arranging them or performing basic addition. They might have trouble telling time or distance. ADHD and Autism also fall into the category of neurodivergent issues which leads to people having an inability to focus, extreme restlessness and paying attention. It also affects planning and organizational skills.
Signs and symptoms
It’s a universal understanding that children by nature are restless, easily distracted and petulant when it comes to learning, especially in school. So, it’s not uncommon for parents to face issues like their kid refusing to talk, playing instead of writing or dozing off. But how do you differentiate between these behaviour and actual learning disabilities? If you are asking yourself the question, does my child have a learning disability, you can go through the list below.
The signs of learning disabilities manifest in every child in different ways; thus, not everything will apply to a single child. However, some of the most common symptoms that children usually show, depending on their age are:
- Has difficulty pronouncing words
- Trouble finding the right word
- Has issues with rhyming words
- Difficulty with memorizing alphabets, shapes, numbers, colors etc.
- Extremely restless and easily distracted.
- Have trouble following orders or routines
- Have trouble associating letters with their sounds
- Confuses basic words while reading and writing
- Prone to spelling errors, mainly by reversal and substitution of letters/words with similar sounds or appearance
- Difficulty with basic math
- Trouble learning about time, number sequences or distance
- Slow to learn new skills
- Poor coordination
- Unstable grip on pencil or illegible handwriting
- Reckless or impulsive behavior
- Poor reading comprehension
- Spells the same word differently within a single answer
- Trouble with open ended or long word problems
- Avoids reading out loud
- Mixes up prefixes and suffixes of words frequently
- Bad handwriting and poor grip on pen and pencils
- Cannot recall facts easily
- Hard to remain still and focus on anything
- Difficulty making friends
The main differences between behaviours and disabilities are that the latter is consistently present and includes multiple signs. It’s not just limited to children. Since these are incurable conditions, many times people in high school or college realize that they have had certain learning disabilities after proper evaluation.
How to help and support
There is no particular age for recognizing learning disabilities in a child. Although early diagnosis and treatment certainly make life much easier to live. In a country like India, where mental illness or any neurological condition is treated as a taboo, a parent might not want to accept that her kids might have a disability. It is not uncommon to see kids being called slow, stupid, dumb or even lazy when they are unable to keep up with their peers. It’s not that the kids are any less smart, it’s just that regular school coursework isn’t designed to support their disabilities. With proper intervention, kids with learning disabilities have shown 100% better results, both in academics and personal life.
Recently, there has been a huge increase in people being aware of disabilities, both physical and mental. A frequent question among young and soon to be parents is what to do if they think their child has a learning disability. Before we go through various measures and options, it’s important to note that your kids learning disability might make them a subject of ridicule in school. Thus, both the child and the parent need to understand that having a learning disability does not make a child inferior or dumb. It’s just that their brains are wired differently than others when it comes to receiving and processing information. They just need a little extra help and support.
There are numerous studies conducted to test out the best method when it comes to providing support to kids with learning disabilities. Some of these include:
- Early Intervention: A common mentality of parents is to “wait for them to grow out of it.” The best thing you can do for your child is to consult a child psychologist or psychiatrist and get them evaluated as soon as possible. An early intervention would make sure that their weakness doesn’t impede the future of your child, and they can easily keep up with their peers.
- Consultation and evaluation: A proper consultation from a psychiatrist leads to an effective diagnosis of a child’s learning disability. A parent can then proceed to make arrangements/changes according to the specific necessity of a kid.
- Accommodations: Lastly, it’s up to the parent to do research and figure out the best support system for their child. Since none of the LD is similar, each child requires a different set of assistance. For example, a kid with ADHD might be best suited to medication and therapy, whereas someone with dyslexia might benefit from a reading specialist. The advanced technology is also a boon when I come to children with LD. In a classroom, the teacher can be consulted to design tests that have less numerical or give a child extra time or perhaps provide audiobooks for better comprehension.
Having a learning disability doesn’t mean your child is broken, unlike what society thinks. It might seem like the future of your child looks bleak, but rest easy. Once you learn the specifics of their disability, you can find many resources and solutions that will help your child be the best version of them in the future. You just need to ask yourself, what matters most? Your child’s ability to live a fulfilling life with good relationships or short-term academic achievements.