Friday, March 6, 2009

Types of learning disabilities

[This post is written by Tharini of Winkie's Way and crossposted there.]

DISCLAIMER!!!

Before reading further, please note that the info presented here is purely cursory information based on some online research. It is by no means conclusive and if you feel that your child exhibits one or more of these warning signs, it does not mean that he/she suffers from a learning disability! Thank you.

March has been dedicated to awareness of learning disabilities in children in our little slice of the blogosphere. To be frank, I have no experience or knowledge about learning disabilities. But that should not stop any of us from understanding more about what it is, because being educated is being empowered. And when Kiran gave us a list of topics to address I chose 2. Namely, types of learning disabilities and warning signs that parents and teachers need to watch out for.

But before we get into any of all that....let us first clarify our understanding of what learning disabilities in children really are about. Some individuals, despite having an average or above average level of intelligence, have real difficulty acquiring basic academic skills. These skills include those needed for successful reading, writing, listening, speaking and/or math. These difficulties might be the result of a learning disability. It is basically a condition when a child's achievement is substantially below what one might expect for that child. Learning disabilities do not include problems that are primarily the result of intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbance, or visual, hearing, emotional or intellectual disabilities.

Many children with LD have struggle with reading. The difficulties often begin with individual sounds, or phonemes. Students may have problems with rhyming, and pulling words apart into their individual sounds (segmenting) and putting individual sounds together to form words (blending). This makes it difficult to decode words accurately, which can lead to trouble with fluency and comprehension. As students move through the grades, more and more of the information they need to learn is presented in written (through textbooks) or oral (through lecture) form. This exacerbates the difficulties they have succeeding in school.

What are the types of learning disabilities (LDs)?

LD is a broad term. There are many different kinds of learning disabilities. Most often they fall into three broad categories:

Reading disabilities (often referred to as dyslexia)

Written language disabilities (often referred to as dysgraphia)

Math disabilities (often called dyscalsulia)

Other related categories include disabilities that affect memory, social skills, and executive functions such as deciding to begin a task.

Here is some general information on the more common forms of LD. We will not get into too much of detail, and restrict this to an overview understanding of the types of LDs.

Dyslexia (difficulty reading)

Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. Reading disabilities affect 2 to 8 % of elementary school children.

To read successfully, one must:

Focus attention on the printed symbols
Recognize the sounds associated with letters
Understand words and grammar
Build ideas and images
Compare new ideas to what you already know
Store ideas in memory

A person with dyslexia can have problems in any of the tasks involved in reading. Dyslexia is not due to either lack of intelligence or desire to learn; with appropriate teaching methods, dyslexics can learn successfully. Remedial reading specialists have developed techniques that can help many children with dyslexia acquire these skills.

However, there is more to reading than recognizing words. If the brain is unable to form images or relate new ideas to those stored in memory, the reader cannot understand or remember the new concepts. Other types of reading disabilities can appear in the upper grades when the focus of reading shifts from word identification to comprehension.

Dysgraphia (Writing difficulty)

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing abilities. It can manifest itself as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper. Just having bad handwriting doesn't mean a person has dysgraphia. But if a person has trouble in any of the areas below, additional help may be beneficial.

>Tight, awkward pencil grip and body position
>Illegible handwriting
>Avoiding writing or drawing tasks
>Tiring quickly while writing
>Saying words out loud while writing
>Unfinished or omitted words in sentences
>Difficulty organizing thoughts on paper
>Difficulty with syntax structure and grammar
>Large gap between written ideas and understanding demonstrated through speech.

Dyscalculia (Difficult in Math)

Dyscalculia is a term referring to a wide range of life-long learning disabilities involving math. There is no single form of math disability, and difficulties vary from person to person and affect people differently in school and throughout life.

Since math disabilities are varied, the signs that a person may have a difficulty in this area can be just as varied. If a person has trouble in any of the areas below, additional help may be beneficial.

>Good at speaking, reading, and writing, but slow to develop counting and math problem-solving skills
>Good memory for printed words, but difficulty reading numbers, or recalling numbers in sequence
>Good with general math concepts, but frustrated when specific computation and organization skills need to be used
>Trouble with the concept of time-chronically late, difficulty remembering schedules, trouble with approximating how long something will take
>Poor sense of direction, easily disoriented and easily confused by changes in routine
>Poor long term memory of concepts-can do math functions one day, but is unable to repeat them the next day
>Poor mental math ability-trouble estimating grocery costs or counting days until vacation
>Difficulty playing strategy games like chess, bridge or role-playing video games
>Difficulty keeping score when playing board and card games.

Other related conditions

Many aspects of speaking, listening, reading, writing, and arithmetic overlap and build on the same brain capabilities. It is not surprising that people can be diagnosed with more than one learning disability. There are many disabilities that are related to learning disabilities. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) makes it difficult for children to control their behavior and pay attention.

[This has been a very brief overview of LDs. More exhastive information can be found at http://www.ldonline.org/]

GENERAL WARNING SIGNS OF LDs

Warning signs may differ depending on whether it is a preschool child, or elementary school or secondary school.

PRESCHOOLER

Language
* Slow development in speaking words or sentences
* Pronunciation problems
* Difficulty learning new words
* Difficulty following simple directions
* Difficulty understanding questions
* Difficulty expressing wants and desires
* Difficulty rhyming words
* Lack of interest in story telling

Motor Skills
* Clumsiness
* Poor balance
* Difficulty manipulating small objects
* Awkwardness with running, jumping, or climbing
* Trouble learning to tie shoes, button shirts, or perform other self-help activities
* Avoidance of drawing or tracing

Cognition
* Trouble memorizing the alphabet or days of the week
* Poor memory for what should be routine (everyday) procedures
* Difficulty with cause and effect, sequencing, and counting
* Difficulty with basic concepts such as size, shape, color

Attention
* High distractibility
* Impulsive behavior
* Unusual restlessness (hyperactivity)
* Difficulty staying on task
* Difficulty changing activities
* Constant repetition of an idea, inability to move on to a new idea (perseveration)

Social Behavior
* Trouble interacting with others, playing alone
* Prone to sudden and extreme mood changes
* Easily frustrated
* Hard to manage, has temper tantrums

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Language/Mathematics
Slow learning of the correspondence of sound to letter.
Consistent errors in reading or spelling
Difficulty remembering basic sight words
Inability to retell a story in sequence
Trouble learning to tell time or count money
Confusion of math signs (+, -, x, /, =)
Transposition of number sequences
Trouble memorizing math facts
Trouble with place value
Difficulty remembering the steps of mathematic operations such as long division

Motor Skills
Poor coordination, or awkwardness
Difficulty copying from chalkboard
Difficulty aligning columns (math)
Poor handwriting

Attention/Organization
Difficulty concentrating or focusing on a task
Difficulty finishing work on time
Inability to follow multiple directions
Unusual sloppiness, carelessness
Poor concept of direction (left, right)
Rejection of new concepts, or changes in routine

Social Behavior
Difficulty understanding facial expressions or gestures
Difficulty understanding social situations
Tendency to misinterpret behavior of peers and/or adults
Apparent lack of "common sense"

SECONDARY SCHOOL

Language/Mathematics/Social Studies
Avoidance of reading and writing
Tendency to misread information
Difficulty summarizing
Poor reading comprehension
Difficulty understanding subject area textbooks
Trouble with open-ended questions
Continued poor spelling
Poor grasp of abstract concepts
Poor skills in writing essays
Difficulty in learning foreign language
Poor ability to apply math skills

Attention/Organization
Difficulty staying organized
Trouble with test formats such as multiple choice
Slow work pace in class and in testing situations
Poor note taking skills
Poor ability to proofread or double check work

Social Behavior
Difficulty accepting criticism
Difficulty seeking or giving feedback
Problems negotiating or advocating for oneself
Difficulty resisting peer pressure
Difficulty understanding another person's perspectives

7 comments:

indosungod said...

Tharini, thanks for the post.

I am a little apprehensive when I see these campaigns. I am also scared parents/educators without training or understanding to spot LD are the ones who are increasingly the first ones who do the diagnosis. I might be wrong here but sometimes too much information in the wrong hands ...

Moreover looking at the warning signs for "Social Behavior" - that could be me.

Everybody knows that each child is different but very few parents (this would include me) have the maturity to understand that slow learning is not a disability but the normal way that particular child learns.

Sandeepa said...

Thanks for the awareness Tharini

But I do agree with Indo when she says "sometimes too much information in the wrong hands ..."

Kids do have different quirks, if I may say so. My 5 year old who is much ahead in reading and writing as her teacher says, still writes a "ulta/opposite" b or d and sometimes even some numbers !!!

Sandeepa said...

I would also say to parents that to not get paranoid with generic information(I am always doing that so I am trying to think aloud here)
and treat each child individually.

So if your pre-schooler is showing some of the warning signs, don't get hyper !!!!

Tharini said...

Hi Indo & Sandeepa. Thanks for your thoughts. I understand and appreciate your concerns. But as a parent, I would assume everyone has an instinctive ability to sift through info presented and understand when it could apply to them directly. I presented this information clinically based on that assumption. But if you feel strongly that this could be information in the wrong hands which will cause alarm rather than a general awareness, then by all means, I am prepared to remove or modify this post as need me. Please advise!

Sandeepa said...

Oh no Tharini, I didn't mean that at all. I don't think Indo did either

It is very good information, presented in a very precise manner.

What I am saying is for parents who are perusing the information (not only this post but any other on the internet). You are right when you say they should have the ability to sift through info.

Many parents (and me too) take printed stuff too seriously and so I am just saying that if a child shows some of these warning signs, it is not necessary that they be branded as learning disabled. Give each child their own time and pace and maybe as Indo said "slowly" is how some child learn

Tharini said...

Sandeepa...I have added a disclaimer to the top of the post. I hope it takes care of this concern.

Jaya said...

This is an excellent post and well put and thanks for these info ..
hugs and smiles