Does my child have a learning difficulty?

Does my child have a learning difficulty

What is a learning disability?

For many years, professionals have debated over an acceptable definition for learning disabilities, one that is narrow enough to be useful but broad enough to cover all the different characteristics of a learning disability. A useful, if broad definition is, an individual of at least average intelligence who appears capable of school success but has unexpected and unexplained difficulties in acquiring academic success. An individual is not considered to have a learning disability if they have impaired vision, emotional difficulties, hearing loss, impacting environmental factors, a physical disability, low intelligence or brain damage. There are a number of different disorders that affect a child’s ability to acquire, retain, understand, organise and use verbal and non-verbal information, many of which would be classified as a learning disability.

This article will not go into the specific different types of learning disability but will rather give guidelines and possible indicators of learning disabilities.

How do I tell if my child has a learning disability?
The following checklist contains the common warning signs of learning disabilities but it is important to note that all children show one of more of these behaviours at some point in their childhood. It is only if your child consistently shows a number of these behaviours that you should consider the possibility of a learning disability and seek professional help. You can approach any of the following for assistance; your paediatrician, a psychologist, the specialised education department at a university, a learning disability organisation or a remedial school.

Does your child have difficulties with:

SPOKEN OR WRITTEN LANGUAGE
⦁ Learning new vocabulary
⦁ Following directions
⦁ Understanding requests
⦁ Pronouncing words
⦁ Discriminating amongst sounds
⦁ Spelling
⦁ Writing stories and essays
⦁ Reading comprehension
⦁ Responding to questions

ORGANISATION
⦁ Knowing the time, date, year, etc.
⦁ Completing assignments
⦁ Organising thoughts
⦁ Sequencing
⦁ Completing work in a given time
⦁ Managing time
⦁ Setting priorities
⦁ Carrying out a plan
⦁ Finding their belongings
⦁ Making decisions

MEMORY
⦁ Spelling
⦁ Studying for tests
⦁ Remembering names
⦁ Remembering events
⦁ Learning the alphabet
⦁ Learning new procedures
⦁ Remembering directions
⦁ Remembering phone numbers
⦁ Identifying letters
⦁ Learning new maths concepts

ATTENTION AND CONCENTRATION
⦁ Acting before thinking
⦁ Poor organisation
⦁ Daydreaming
⦁ Restlessness
⦁ Completing a task
⦁ Waiting
⦁ Distractibility

SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR
⦁ Social judgement
⦁ Working cooperatively
⦁ Making and keeping friends
⦁ Impulsive behaviour
⦁ Easily frustrated
⦁ Accepting changes to routine
⦁ Interpreting nonverbal cues
⦁ Sportsmanship

PHYSICAL COORDINATION
⦁ Learning self-help skills
⦁ Climbing and running
⦁ Drawing
⦁ Cutting
⦁ Mastering sports
⦁ Manipulating small objects
⦁ Handwriting

I think my child fits many of these criteria – what do I do now?
If you think your child may have a learning disability it is advisable to have your child assessed. This involves contacting a psychologist (usually, but not exclusively, an educational psychologist) who will administer a number of test batteries and will then be able to determine if your child has a learning disability, as well as what their specific strengths and weaknesses are. Once this has been done, the psychologist will make suggestions and recommendations for how best to help your child. Then, in conjunction with you, as the parents, the school and the psychologist involved, accommodations for your child can be made at school (this may involve creating an individualised education programme), remedial assistance may be provided or you may need to consider placing your child in a remedial school. The specific action taken will depend on the severity and the specific nature of the learning disability.

What happens when help is not provided?
There are a number of possible outcomes for an unassisted child with a learning disability. Many fail a number of times at school and may not even complete school. There is a high correlation between learning disabled children and drug and alcohol abuse as well as delinquent behaviours (especially if the learning disability is undiagnosed). Low self-esteem is common amongst children with learning difficulties and frustration and despair are common. Poor social relationships are also prevalent in these children.
It’s important to diagnose a learning disability as early as possible in order to provide the best possible support and assistance for your child. Successful intervention at an early stage can prevent or improve academic and social failure. Please try to get your child seen by a professional as soon as you or the class teacher suspect there are learning problems. The frustration and consequences of living with an undiagnosed learning disability can have a profound effect on many areas of a child’s life and well into the adult years.

 

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