Learning about Learning Disabilities. Part One
Perhaps you sense that your child is not performing up to her potential. Perhaps she is struggling academically or doesn’t show the same mastery of age-expected skills as older siblings. Could she have a learning disability?
For reasons not well understood, learning disabilities are fairly common these days. This has led to increased interest into the relationship between brain functioning and a child’s ability to cope with school demands. As a result of many studies, we now know that a child who finds schoolwork hard is not ‘naughty’, lazy or stupid. We know that even exceptionally intelligent children and those who have the privilege of attending the best schools can still show problems with learning. But we also know that children with a learning disability are not doomed to lifelong failure.
As a parent, the more you know about learning disabilities the earlier you’ll be able to recognise the symptoms. This is important because timing can be crucial to addressing and perhaps resolving a problem before school going age, when children begin to find learning hard, lose interest, develop a lack of confidence and even develop unhealthy coping techniques to compensate.
But there is a difference between recognising symptoms of a learning disability and being able to identify and define its nature. This is where you need a specialist to help you correctly identify the source of the difficulty and know what to do to eliminate it. Remember that sometimes the symptoms of a difficulty may have no clear connection to the underlying cause. Steven might have problems with mathematics but hiring a tutor or remedial teacher to help him with his computational problems may not be the solution. If he has a language processing problem, for example, he may not understand the problems presented to him as ‘story sums’ (e.g. ‘If Betty has seven Rand and loses five ….). Trying to ‘fix’ a symptom without addressing its source can only lead to frustration and a loss of time (and money). To the child, such efforts can compound the problem because in spite of trying, they don’t show improvement. They become discouraged, frustrated and even angry. Some might begin to act out or withdraw, but either way, the family experiences a deluge of emotions which affects all members.
As a parent, you feel responsible for finding the best solution possible for your child. But before you seek out the help of professionals, you could try to understand more about learning disabilities so that you can speak to professionals on a more equal footing. It is also important to project confidence to your child. If you display anxiety and become stressed because of your concerns, your child will also begin to feel more anxious. Remember that there is help out there, and you’ll be doing all you can to help in the most effective way possible.
As a start, these articles will give some answers to frequently asked questions. Then I’ll try to outline some of the more commonly encountered causes of various learning difficulties.
If you miss one of these articles, don’t despair because they are all published on the blog on the Integrated Learning Therapy website. So visit the website – www.ilt.co.za – to read more about our ILT approach and also to check on any blogs that you might have missed.
We also offer courses to parents, teachers and helping professionals and those are listed on the website as well.
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