What Are Learning Disorders
Learning disorders or disabilities are neurologically based processing problems. These processing issues can significantly interfere with learning basic skills (e.g. reading, writing, math, etc.) and also high-level skills (organization, abstract reasoning, attention, etc.). Because of this impact, untreated learning disabilities can affect nearly all facets of life, not just academics.
Learning disabilities look very different from child to child. While one child may struggle to read and spell, another may love reading but can’t comprehend math. Yet, both of these children suffer from a learning disorder. This variance in symptoms can make identifying and diagnosing disorders difficult. However, being aware of the signs can help you catch a disorder early and quickly, allowing you to take appropriate steps to get your child the assistance he or she needs. Below is some information regarding common learning disorders.
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Often referred to as mathematics disorder, mathematics learning disability, and math dyslexia, dyscalculia is a type of learning disorder that affects a child’s ability to understand numbers and mathematical facts. Children with this condition may also have trouble comprehending math symbols, organizing numbers, telling time, and counting.
What Are The Signs Of Dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia can cause a variety of math-related troubles for children, and the symptoms can vary from child to child. On top of this, many children with dyscalculia also have co-occurring issues, like dyslexia and ADHD. This makes diagnosing the condition challenging.
Dyscalculia looks different at different ages, and the signs of dyscalculia tend to become more noticeable as children age and schoolwork becomes more challenging. Here are some common signs to look for at different school ages:
Children In Preschool
- Finds it hard to count and often skips over numbers long after most peers are able to correctly remember numbers
- Has trouble recognizing patterns (e.g. ordering numbers from smallest to largest and vice versa)
- Is unable to understand number symbols (e.g. knowing that “seven” and “7” are the same)
- Has difficulty understanding the concept of counting (e.g. when asked to count ten blocks, the child just hands over an armful of blocks)
Children In Grade School
- Struggles to remember basic math facts (e.g. 5 + 10 = 15)
- Finds it hard to recognize the difference between symbols (e.g. doesn’t understand the difference between +,-, and =)
- Uses fingers to count instead of more advanced strategies (e.g. can’t perform mental calculations)
- Is unable to understand mathematical phrases (e.g. “greater than” and “less than”)
- Doesn’t see meaning in visual-spatial representation (e.g. number lines)
Children In Middle School
- Has trouble understanding place value
- Unable to write and organize numerals clearly
- Struggles to understand and differentiate fractions (e.g. measuring ingredients for a recipe)
- Finds it hard to keep score during games
What Are The Causes Of Dyscalculia?
The exact cause of dyscalculia is still unknown. However, researchers have identified certain key factors that indicate that the condition is related to how the brain is structured and functions. Below are some of these potential causes:
- Genes — Dyscalculia tends to run in families, and research shows that math capabilities among children can be explained through an analysis of genes. This indicates that genes are a common cause of dyscalculia.
- Brain Development — Based on brain-imaging studies, researchers have found that there are noticeable differences in brain function and structure with people suffering from dyscalculia. Particularly, studies indicate differences in brain surface area, volume, and thickness.
- Environment — Occurrences like fetal alcohol syndrome, prematurity, and low birth weight have all been identified as potential causes of dyscalculia.
- Brain Injury — Certain brain injuries could play an integral part in the formation of dyscalculia.
As with all learning disorders, the key to developing an effective treatment plan is first accurately diagnosing the condition. There have been a number of tests developed specifically for diagnosing dyscalculia. These evaluations are performed by a number of pediatric therapists, psychologists, and neurophysiologists.
It is important to remember that dyscalculia is often accompanied by other learning disorders. Because of this co-occurrence, your evaluation should strive to be as comprehensive as possible. After a complete evaluation has been conducted, there are a number of treatments and interventions that can be performed. Such treatments include a variety of strategies and techniques, like using diagrams and other visual aids, drawing pictures of word problems, utilizing graph paper, making use of mnemonic devices, etc.
Researchers are still determining how much of this learning disorder is impacted by genes and by experience. This has fueled a number of studies and interventions aimed at “rewiring” the brain to help lessen the effects of dyscalculia. This concept is often referred to as neuroplasticity.
Although there are not specialized teaching programs for dyscalculia, like there are for dyslexia, there are pediatric therapists who specialize in treating this condition. At FUNctionabilities, this is one of the conditions our pediatric therapists have experience treating.
Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities. For children with this condition, simple tasks like holding a pencil and organizing letters on a line can be extremely challenging. Despite these challenges, most children with this learning disability don’t have extensive social or academic problems.
Most children are not diagnosed until after they have been introduced to writing. While there is no cure or simple fix for dysgraphia, with proper treatment, children with dysgraphia can gain the experience and skills necessary to be an accomplished writer.
What Are The Signs Of Dysgraphia?
Just because a child has slow or sloppy handwriting does not mean that he or she has dysgraphia. However, if your child continues to struggle after corrective help and practice, dysgraphia may be an underlying cause. Signs of the disorder typically don’t emerge until children are first introduced to writing, and the symptoms will vary depending on age. The symptoms can be grouped into the following six categories:
- Is unable to differentiate between shapes and letter spacing
- Finds it difficult to organize words from left to right
- Writes in all directions and often lets words run together
- Has a hard time writing between lines and inside margins
- Can’t easily read maps, draw, or reproduce shapes
- Copies text slowly
Fine Motor Issues
- Struggles to hold a pencil correctly
- Has trouble tracing, cutting, doing puzzles, tying shoes, keyboarding, etc.
- Assumes an awkward position when writing
Language Processing Problems
- Has trouble quickly writing down ideas on paper
- Finds it hard to follow directions and process the rules of games
- Loses train of thought easily
Spelling and Handwriting Issues
- Can’t remember spelling rules
- Unable to spot misspelled words
- Spells words correctly orally but incorrectly in writing
- Confuses upper and lowercase letters
- Gets frequent hand cramps
- Has trouble comprehending punctuation
- Mixes up verb tenses
- Writes in a list format
- Starts sentences with lowercase letters
- Find it hard to tell a story (e.g. may start in the middle of the story)
- Leaves out important details
- Assumes people know what he/she is talking about
- Never gets to the point or makes the same point repeatedly
If you have noticed these signs in your child, schedule an evaluation to see whether dysgraphia may be an underlying condition.
What Are The Causes Of Dysgraphia?
Writing requires a varied and complex set of language and fine motor skills. Before a person starts writing, he or she retrieves information that has been stored in the brain. While the exact source of dysgraphia is still unknown, experts believe that the cause of dysgraphia stems from a person’s inability to organize and store necessary information or getting information onto paper through writing. Additionally, researchers believe that genetics and working memory may also play a role.
It is not uncommon for children with dysgraphia to have other learning disabilities. Dyslexia, language disorders, ADHD, and dyspraxia are all common, co-occurring conditions. For this reason, it is crucial to perform a thorough evaluation and complete an accurate diagnosis.
If your child is found to have dysgraphia, there are a number of therapies and interventions that may be administered. For children, pediatric occupational therapy is often encouraged to help strengthen muscle tone, improve dexterity, correct inadequate pencil grasp, and improve hand-eye coordination. Other support may include assistive accommodations and memory-targeted treatments.
Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects a person’s ability to accurately and fluently read. Children with dyslexia have trouble recognizing and manipulating sounds in language. Particularly, kids with dyslexia are often unable to answer questions about something they have read. But when it is read to them, they are able to answer questions with ease.
Although this learning disability is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured or outgrown, the challenges it presents can be overcome through support and strategies. When this learning disorder is diagnosed early and treated accurately, children can go on to lead successful and satisfied lives.
What Are The Signs Of Dyslexia?
The symptoms of dyslexia can vary in type and severity. For most children, this condition impacts their ability to accurately and fluently read and spell. But for some children, this can also affect writing, math, and language. While all children learn and develop at their own pace, if reading has become an ongoing struggle and has caused your child to fall behind his or her peers, it is possible that he or she has dyslexia. Below are some of the most common signs of dyslexia for different age groups:
Children In Preschool
- Leaves off the beginning sound of words
- Finds it hard to recognize when two words rhyme
- Has trouble learning new words
- Struggles to match letters with sounds
Children In Grade School
- Finds it difficult to blend several sounds to make words
- Is unable to recognize common sight words
- Forgets how to spell familiar words
- Struggles to solve word problems in math
Children In Middle School
- Reads at a lower level than how he/she speaks
- Has to re-read sentences and passages to form an understanding
- Makes spelling errors often
Knowing the signs of dyslexia allows for an early diagnosis and treatment plan, which can then positively impact the child’s academic and social life.
What Are The Causes Of Dyslexia?
Despite common misconceptions, dyslexia is not a disease, and even though it can affect learning, it is not the result of an intelligence problem. Similarly, although many people assume that dyslexia is a visual issue — since children often reverse letters and write backward — this is not the case. This being said, researchers have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of dyslexia. The following are some potential causes that have been identified:
- Genes and Heredity — Research shows that dyslexia often runs in families. Some studies estimate that nearly half of the kids with dyslexia also have a parent who has it.
- Brain Anatomy and Activity — Brain imaging studies have revealed key differences between those with and without dyslexia. Children with dyslexia will use different parts of the brain than those without dyslexia. The particular differences occur in the areas of the brain that are used for reading.
As is the case with all learning disorders, the key to effective treatment is an early diagnosis. To accomplish this, a reading specialist or psychologist will have to perform a comprehensive evaluation of your child. After this has been done, you and your child can work with experts to develop a multi-disciplinary treatment plan.
While there are no medications or cures for dyslexia, there are a wide variety of interventions, services, exercises, and strategies used to mitigate the effects of this learning disorder. Such treatments include pediatric speech-language pathologists, reading specialists, child psychologist, neuropsychologists, and pediatric therapists.
FUNctionabilities has a team of experienced pediatric therapists who are capable of utilizing a variety of skilled-therapies to help your child manage and overcome the effects of this learning disorder.
Have concerns about your child? Don’t delay.
The sooner you move forward, the better chance your child has for reaching his or her full potential. Schedule an evaluation today.