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Detecting Learning Disabilities

A learning disability is a problem that affects how a person receives and processes information. People with learning disabilities may have trouble with any of the following:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Doing math
  • Understanding directions

Learning disabilities are common. Between 8% and 10% of children under age 18 in the U.S. may have some type of learning disability.

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Learning disabilities have nothing to do with how smart a person is. Rather, a person with a learning disability may just see, hear, or understand things differently. That can make everyday tasks, such as studying for a test or staying focused in class, much more difficult. There are strategies a person can learn to make it easier to cope with these differences.

Types of Learning Disabilities

There are many different kinds of learning disabilities, and they can affect people differently. It's important to note that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism are not the same as learning disabilities.

The main types of learning disorders include:

Dyspraxia. Dyspraxia affects a person's motor skills. Motor skills help us with movement and coordination. A young child with dyspraxia may bump into things or have trouble holding a spoon or tying his shoelaces. Later, he may struggle with things like writing and typing. Other problems associated with dyspraxia include:

  • Speech difficulties
  • Sensitivity to light, touch, taste, or smell
  • Difficulty with eye movements

Dyslexia. Dyslexia affects how a person processes language, and it can make reading and writing difficult. It can also cause problems with grammar and reading comprehension. Children may also have trouble expressing themselves verbally and putting together thoughts during conversation.

Dysgraphia. Dysgraphia affects a person's writing abilities. People with dysgraphia may have a variety of problems, including:

  • Bad handwriting
  • Trouble with spelling
  • Difficulty putting thoughts down on paper

Dyscalculia. Dyscalculia affects a person's ability to do math. Math disorders can take many forms and have different symptoms from person to person. In young children, dyscalculia may affect learning to count and recognize numbers. As a child gets older, he or she may have trouble solving basic math problems or memorizing things like multiplication tables.

Auditory Processing Disorder. This is a problem with the way the brain processes the sounds a person takes in. It is not caused by hearing impairment. People with this disorder may have trouble:

  • Learning to read
  • Distinguishing sounds from background noise
  • Following spoken directions
  • Telling the difference between similar-sounding words
  • Remembering things they've heard

Visual Processing Disorder. Someone with a visual processing disorder has trouble interpreting visual information. He or she may have a hard time with reading or telling the difference between two objects that look similar. People with a visual processing disorder often have trouble with hand-eye coordination.

 

Diagnosing a Learning Disability

Learning disabilities can be hard to diagnose, because there is no definitive list of symptoms that fits every child. Also, many children try to hide the problem. You may not notice anything more obvious than frequent complaints about homework or a child who doesn't want to go to school.

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