If you find your child frequently struggling with school work, having trouble reading out loud, writing down answers to their homework, or having difficulty understanding basic math, then there is a chance that your child has a learning disorder. There are many types of learning disorders, and they have a direct impact on the psychological processes that are involved in learning. While some learning disorders can impair the manner in which a child learns to read and write, others affect the way in which a child’s brain processes words and numbers. Read on to learn about the most common learning disorders your child may have.
Before we learn about the common learning disorders, though, it is essential to understand what exactly a learning disorder is.
What is a Learning Disorder?
Learning disorders or learning disabilities are today used as an umbrella term to describe a wide variety of learning difficulties. A learning disorder does not mean that there is a problem with the child’s motivation or intelligence. Neither does it mean that the child is dumb or lazy. In fact, most kids with learning disorders are equally as smart as others. However, their brains are just wired in a different manner, which impacts the way in which they receive and process information.
Children and adults with learning disorders just see, hear, and understand things in a different way than everyone else. This often leads them to experience difficulty in learning and processing new information and skills, and also in putting these to use. The most commonly occurring learning disorders usually involve challenges with reading, writing, reasoning, listening, math, problem-solving, and speaking.
According to the education advocacy organization MLM Advocacy, learning disabilities, or disorders are impairments in the psychological processes that are involved in learning. The organization advocates that learning disorders affect the manner in which a person learns how to read and write, do math, or carry out any other learning process.(1)
3 Most Common Learning Disorders Your Child May Have:
According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, there are several types of learning disabilities, with the following three being the most commonly diagnosed:(2)
Let us take a closer look at these commonly diagnosed learning disorders.
Dyslexia is the most commonly diagnosed learning difficulty. It affects the ability to read and write.(3) Dyslexia impacts the manner in which the brain processes the sounds of words and graphic symbols. The condition typically affects spelling, word recognition, as well as the ability to match individual letters to sounds. Dyslexia is a neurological condition, but it does not have any relation to a person’s intelligence.(4)
Many medical experts believe that nearly five to ten percent of people have dyslexia, while others estimate that the prevalence of dyslexia is even higher, at 17 percent.(5)
If dyslexia is diagnosed at an early age, it helps reduce the impact of the condition on a child. Even though it is a challenging process, but nearly everyone with dyslexia can eventually learn to read if they are given the right support and instruction.
It is possible for a person to experience symptoms of dyslexia at any age, but it is more common to appear during childhood. Most parents are able to recognize the signs of dyslexia once the child starts going to school. Here are some of the common symptoms of the condition:
Symptoms of Dyslexia That Become Evident At Preschool Age: Child Starts Having Difficulty In:
- Learning new words
- Recognizing new words and letters
- Learning the alphabet, numbers, rhymes, etc.
- Connecting letter with their sounds
At Primary And Middle School: Child May Have Difficulty In:
- Writing neatly or holding a pencil
- Remembering numbers and facts
- Memorizing poems or simple verses
- Spelling words correctly
- Distinguishing between similar-looking letters such as b and d; m and w
- Following directions or instructions
- Learning a new language
- Finding the right words to speak, especially if speaking in front of an audience
In Teenagers And Adolescents, A Difficulty May Occur In:
- Understand puzzles, proverbs, rhymes, and even jokes
- Memorizing poems or verses
- Paraphrasing or summarizing a story
- Working on math problems
- Managing time
- Reading aloud or reading with ease
There is no cure for dyslexia, but there are several approaches that make daily learning tasks easier for the child. Since dyslexia affects each person in a different way, most people find ways to modify and accommodate their learning difference and continue to live a good quality of life.
There is no apparent reason why some children develop dyslexia, and others don’t. It is believed that there is a genetic connection since dyslexia tends to run in families. Many researchers have also linked alterations in the DCDC2 gene with dyslexia and reading problems.(6)
Receiving an early diagnosis and the necessary support in the early years of life have been shown to have better benefits.
According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, following some healthy tips could help students study well with dyslexia.(7) Some of these tips include:
- Using time management strategies to set out a task before actually beginning it
- Organizing their notes visually, using a color-coded system or highlighters
- Using helpful tools such as flashcards
- Working in a clear, quiet space
- Keeping distractions to a minimum while studying
Dysgraphia is another common learning disorder that is characterized by problems with writing. This is a neurological disability that can affect both children and adults. People with Dysgraphia may also use the wrong word for what they are trying to say.
Similar to dyslexia, the cause of dysgraphia is also not always clear, though, in adults, it has been observed to follow a traumatic life event.(8)
The most common symptom of dysgraphia is illegible handwriting, but this does not mean that everyone who has messy handwriting has dysgraphia. Some people with neat handwriting may also have dysgraphia, but in such cases, it is likely that the person takes a long time and a lot of effort to write nicely.
Some of the common symptoms of dysgraphia include:
- A mix of print and cursive letter
- Incorrect capitalization and spelling
- Difficulty in copying words
- Labored or slow writing
- Inappropriate spacing and sizing of letters
- Unusual hand or body position while writing
- Difficulty in visualizing words before writing them
- Holding the pen or pencil so tightly that it results in hand cramps
- Saying words out loud while writing
- Omitting words and letters from sentences
- Watching the hand while writing
Extensive research is still ongoing to determine why some children have learning disorders such as dysgraphia, and others don’t. According to the National Institutes of Health, learning disabilities have been found to have a genetic link and run in families. They have also been found to be more frequent in preterm babies.(9)
Children who have dysgraphia have also been found to have other learning disorders. For example, a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is at a higher risk of having dysgraphia. One likely reason behind this is because attention is closely associated with both reading and writing abilities.(10)
Dyslexia is also closely linked with dysgraphia, along with oral and written language (OWL) learning disorder.
For some people with dysgraphia, occupational therapy combined with motor skills training is known to help enhance their writing skills. For others, though, dysgraphia can remain a lifelong challenge.
Another commonly occurring learning disorder is dyscalculia, which is a condition characterized by learning difficulties in math concepts. It is also sometimes referred to as ‘numbers dyslexia,’ though this term is slightly misleading. Dyscalculia specifically only related to mathematics and not reading and writing as dyslexia does.
One study has found that nearly three to seven percent of children and adults have dyscalculia. The results were concluded based on data from Germany’s primary school-aged children.(11)
Dyscalculia is a condition that goes beyond having simple difficulty in understanding math. This learning disorder makes it difficult for a person to understand the broader concepts that govern the rules of mathematics. For example, a person with dyscalculia is unable to process whether one amount is larger than the other, or understand how algebra or geometry works.
Common symptoms of Dyscalculia include:
- Difficulty describing the exact sequence of steps in a math problem
- Trouble remembering or understanding math concepts such as fractions, carrying, borrowing, multiplications, and division
- Difficulty understanding written or verbal instructions and their math symptoms and signifiers. For example, difficulty understanding the word two and its mathematical symbol the number 2.
- Having trouble explaining mathematical processing or showing the steps when asked to carry out a mathematical problem
- Similar to the other two learning disorders, more research is needed to understand the causes of dyscalculia. However, there are some prevalent theories about why the condition happens in some and not in others.
- Some experts believe that dyscalculia happens due to a lack of robust concrete early learning in mathematics.(12)
Children who learn that math concepts are just a series of conceptual instructions they need to follow, rather than being taught about the hands-on reasoning that is behind these theoretical rules, are thought to be unable to develop the neural pathways in the brain needed to understand more complicated math frameworks and concepts.
As per this belief, a child who has never been shown multiplication using actual items in terms of exact amounts is more likely to develop dyscalculia since he/she does not have the concept of multiplication clear in their mind.
Dyscalculia may occur either as a standalone condition, or it may also be present in combination with other neurological conditions or developmental delays.
Children and adults are at a higher risk of dyscalculia if they have the following conditions:
Similar to the other learning disabilities, dyscalculia is also believed to have a genetic component as it has been found to run in families.
Dyscalculia can be managed with several treatment strategies. If the condition is left untreated, dyscalculia in adults, though, can lead to challenges at work and in managing their finances.
Dyscalculia is a treatable condition, and an early diagnosis can help a person understand math concepts better. While it is more challenging for people with dyscalculia to learn various math concepts, but it is not impossible.
These three common learning disorders are connected to different processing deficits. Children and adults are unable to make sense of the different types of sensory data that they are faced with. These learning disorders make it difficult for students to perform in traditional schools.
Learning disorders can manifest in varying degrees of severity, and no two cases are the same. Some children and adults struggle more than others. However, early diagnosis and understanding these disorders can help people with such disorders succeed better in life.
- MLM Advocacy. 2020. Education Advocacy Organizations | Bilingual Education Advocate. [online] Available at: <https://mlmadvocacy.com/> [Accessed 8 April 2020].
- Learning Disabilities Association of America. 2020. Types Of Learning Disabilities. [online] Available at: <https://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilitie> [Accessed 8 April 2020].
- Lyon, G.R., Shaywitz, S.E. and Shaywitz, B.A., 2003. A definition of dyslexia. Annals of dyslexia, 53(1), pp.1-14.
- Understood.org. 2020. What Is Dyslexia?. [online] Available at: <https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/understanding-dyslexia> [Accessed 8 April 2020].
- Understood.org. 2020. What Is Dyslexia?. [online] Available at: <https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/child-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/what-is-dyslexia> [Accessed 8 April 2020].
- Powers, N.R., Eicher, J.D., Butter, F., Kong, Y., Miller, L.L., Ring, S.M., Mann, M. and Gruen, J.R., 2013. Alleles of a polymorphic ETV6 binding site in DCDC2 confer risk of reading and language impairment. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 93(1), pp.19-28.
- Students, T., 2020. Tips From Students – Yale Dyslexia. [online] Yale Dyslexia. Available at: <http://dyslexia.yale.edu/resources/dyslexic-kids-adults/tips-from-students/> [Accessed 8 April 2020].
- Smits-Engelsman, B.C. and Van Galen, G.P., 1997. Dysgraphia in children: Lasting psychomotor deficiency or transient developmental delay?. Journal of experimental child psychology, 67(2), pp.164-184.
- https://www.nichd.nih.gov/. 2020. What Causes Learning Disabilities?. [online] Available at: <https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/learning/conditioninfo/causes> [Accessed 8 April 2020].
- Döhla, D. and Heim, S., 2016. Developmental dyslexia and dysgraphia: What can we learn from the one about the other?. Frontiers in psychology, 6, p.2045.
- Haberstroh, S. and Schulte-Körne, G., 2019. The diagnosis and treatment of dyscalculia. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 116(7), p.107.
- Dyscalculia.org. 2020. Causes. [online] Available at: <https://www.dyscalculia.org/dyscalculia/math-ld-causes> [Accessed 8 April 2020].