All About Learning Disabilities: Introduction, Types, Symptoms, Associated Problems, Team Work, and Role of ASLP.
By Kriti Karn
Learning disabilities are neurological disorders that alter brain functioning in a manner that affects one or more cognitive processes related to learning. This may be due to genetic or neurobiological factors.
Children with learning disabilities have problems in reading, writing, spelling, reasoning, organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short-term memory, attention, and many more while performing in a traditional way.
To simplify, we can understand it by knowing that the child has a difference in the way his/her brain is “wired”. Although, the intelligence quotient of the child is found to be either average or above average.
A learning disability cannot be cured or fixed; it is a lifelong issue. It affects an individual’s life beyond academics and impacts relationships with family, friends, and everywhere else. But still, with the right support and intervention strategies, children with a disability can succeed in school, college and have very good careers later in life.
Signs and Symptoms of Learning Disabilities
Children with learning disabilities show one or many of the following signs and symptoms.
- Poor reading, writing, or math ability
- Poor memory and short attention span
- Trouble following directions
- Clumsiness, Impulsiveness
- Trouble telling time
- Disorganization and other sensory difficulties
- Difficulty expressing thoughts
- Problems with school performances
- Use of short, simple phrases;
- Leaving words while in sentences.
- Problems understanding concepts and dealing with changes in schedule or situations
Types of Learning Disabilities
Broadly speaking, there are three types of learning disabilities which are discussed below.
Dyslexia is a type of learning disability that affects reading. The individual with this type of disability has problems in word recognition, decoding, and spelling. Other things like poor reading comprehension are also common in the child because of poor reading skills. They have deficits in phonemic as well as phonological awareness.
The ability to hear, identify and manipulate the sound structure of spoken words should also be assessed. They even show problems in orthographic processing which means a problem in connecting letters with sounds accurately and fluently.
It is a type of LD that affects a person’s handwriting ability; mostly fine motor skills. The child’s ability to produce and write automatic and numeral writing is often impaired. Dysgraphia may interfere with math. There is difficulty storing retrieving letters and numerals along with some execution problems.
It is a type of learning disability that affects a person’s ability to understand numbers and to learn math. Individuals demonstrate weakness in number representation and processing skills leading to difficulties in counting, using nonverbal processes.
They can’t perform simple numerical operations or estimate the magnitude of sets. All these math problems cause difficulty in higher-level math problem solving, reasoning as well.
Problems Associated with LD
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
- Non-verbal learning disorders
- CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder)
- Language disorders (Aphasia, Dysphasia)
- Sensory integration disorder
- Visual perception/visual motor deficit
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Multi-Disciplinary Team for Learning Disability
A child with a learning disability has many associated problems that need to be evaluated by different professionals according to need. Sometimes learning difficulties may be because of problems in vision, hearing, poor intelligence, and many other cases. These all should be ruled out and required assessment and intervention must be done according to need. Some of the professionals related to intervention and treatment of learning disability include:
- Primary care physician
- Speech-Language Pathologist
- Special educator
- School counselor
- Social worker
Role of Audiologist and Speech-Language Pathologist (ASLP)
ASLP is meant to work with a child having a language-based learning disability. They carry out remedial intervention on refining core academic skills of reading, spelling, writing, math, comprehension, and reasoning. SLP must stimulate meta-cognition; improve organizational skills, attention, and self-esteem.
An audiologist rules out other reasons like hearing loss that can cause learning difficulties. Auditory Processing Disorders are seen in many children with learning disabilities. Audiologists recognize these problems, access them, and provide the necessary help required.
Speech-Language Pathologist carries out language-based assessment including general language performance (expressive and receptive or oral and written language), articulation, phonology, morphology, syntax, pragmatics, and phonological awareness.
Treatment will depend on what the child needs. The SLP will work on what the child learns in class. The work can be either alone or with others in the classroom. Some of the examples of how the child can be helped include:
- Talking to children about how books work including how to turn pages and how to follow words on a page.
- Working on pre-phonemic awareness
- Saying and then writing down answers for questions asked after listening to the allocated story. Either asking them to retell the story or writing a summary can be done by the client.
- Written words can be used to help them learn other necessary skills.
- Teaching to form sentence structure.
The SLP even helps by working with the child’s teacher. Teachers can be taught how to help children with learning disabilities in the class. SLPs also find ways to organize and improve attention span.
About the Author
» Kriti Karn is a 3rd-year student of Bachelor of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology at Maharajgunj Medical Campus (IOM). She is also the President of the Nepal Speech and Hearing Students’ Association (NESHSA).