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Has difficulty understanding the
concept of time
Resists doing homework or activities
that involve reading, writing or
math, or consistently can’t complete
homework assignments without
significant help
Acts out or shows defiance, hostility or
excessive emotional reactions at school
or while doing academic activities, such
as homework or reading
Seeking help for
learning disorders
Early intervention is essential for a child
who has a learning disorder. Learning
disorders can snowball. For example,
a child who doesn’t learn to add in
elementary school won’t be able to tackle
algebra in high school. Children who
have learning disorders can experience
performance anxiety, depression and low
self-esteem - and lose motivation. Some
children also might act out in an effort to
distract attention from the real issue.
If you or your child’s teacher thinks your
child might have a learning disorder,
consider having him or her evaluated by a
child psychologist or neuropsychologist.
Many schools also offer tests to identify
learning disorders.
First, your child will likely undergo tests
to rule out vision or hearing problems or
other medical conditions. A psychologist
or learning specialist will then use
tests, as well as talk with you and your
child and look at your child’s school
history, to determine if your child has a
learning disorder. In many cases, further
assessment is needed to make a diagnosis.
Keep in mind that some children are
naturally slower learners and might need
time to develop reading, writing and math
skills. Others, however, have disorders
that affect their ability to learn.
can make
it hard for a
child to read,
write or do
simple math.
the signs
and what
you can do.
What are some common
types of learning
A learning disorder is a disorder that
affects a person’s ability to acquire and
use academic skills, such as reading and
calculating. Learning disorders aren’t the
same as mental or physical disabilities,
and don’t reflect a child’s intelligence.
Instead, learning disorders affect a child’s
ability to complete a task or use certain
skills, particularly in school.
The most common
learning disorders include:
Dyslexia is a learning disorder
characterized by difficulty reading,
spelling and recalling known words.
Dyscalculia is a learning
disorder related to math concepts. Signs
include difficulty solving even simple
math problems or sequencing information
or events.
Nonverbal learning disability.
learning disorder is characterized by
difficulty with nonverbal cues, such as
coordination and body language.
Some children might have more than one
learning disorder.
What causes
learning disorders?
Factors that might influence the
development of learning disorders
Some learning disorders,
such as reading and math disorders, are
Medical conditions.
Poor growth in
the uterus (severe intrauterine growth
restriction), exposure to alcohol or drugs
before being born, and low birth weight
are risk factors that have been linked with
learning disorders. Head injuries might
also play a role in the development of
learning disorders.
Environmental exposure.
Exposure to
high levels of lead has been linked to an
increased risk of learning disorders.
What are the signs of
learning disorders?
Identifying a learning disorder can be
difficult. Your child might have a learning
disorder if he or she:
Experiences a delay in achieving a
developmental milestone, while most
other aspects of his or her development
are normal
Has difficulty understanding and
following instructions
Has trouble remembering what
someone just told him or her
Lacks coordination in walking, sports
or skills such as holding a pencil
Easily loses or misplaces homework,
school books or other items
Treatment options
If your child has a learning disorder, your
child’s doctor or school might recommend:
Extra help.
A reading specialist, math
tutor or other trained professional can teach
your child techniques to improve his or
her academic skills. Tutors can also teach
children organizational and study skills.
Individualized education program
Your child’s school might develop an
IEP for your child to create a plan for how
he or she can best learn in school. Find out
if your state has legislation regarding IEPs.
Depending on the learning
disorder, some children might benefit
from therapy. For example, speech therapy
can help children who have language
disabilities. Occupational therapy might
help improve the motor skills of a child who
has writing problems.
Your child’s doctor might
recommend medication to lessen the
toll of a learning disorder. If your child
has depression or severe anxiety, certain
medications might help. Talk to your child’s
doctor about the risks and benefits.
Complementary and alternative
Some research shows that
complementary and alternative treatments,
such as music therapy, can benefit children
who have learning disorders. Further
research is needed, however.
Before your child’s treatment begins,
you and your child’s doctor, teachers
or therapists will set goals for your
If, over time, little progress is made,
your child’s diagnosis or treatment plans
might need to be reconsidered.
While learning disorders can
cause long-term problems, there’s
Early intervention and treatment
can fully remediate some learning
disorders. Family and teachers can
also help children who have persistent
difficulties achieve success in school, as
well as in other areas of life.
Jan/Feb 2014