The words, “learning disability” always seems to send some kind of emotions to the parents or guardians of the child diagnosed. From surprise to confusion, anger, bitterness and more often, denial of such existence.

So, most people would prefer their wards grow with their educational challenges than get tested. Maybe, this could be as a stigma that has been unconsciously attached to the words “learning disability” by the society.

What does learning disability mean?

Sadly, learning disabilities are often confused with mental issues. While mental health problems are not always permanent, learning disability is a permanent condition, although it can be curtailed.

It is a reduced intellectual ability that hinders a child’s ability to read, write, speak, listen, comprehend, understand mathematical concepts or coordinate movements.

What learning disability is not.

  • Myth: Learning disabilities are caused by low IQ.

Fact: People with learning disabilities are often on average or have a high IQ. However, the LD stops them from using their intelligence to achieve tasks.

  • Myth: Laziness results to learning disabilities.

Fact:  If you’ve ever seen how a child with LD struggles, then you’ll dispel this myth.   People with learning disabilities work as hard as those without learning disabilities.

  • Myth: All learning disabilities are the same.

Fact: Learning disability varies from person to person therefore must be approached differently.

  • Myth: People outgrow learning disabilities.

Fact: Learning disabilities cannot be outgrown because it is caused by neurological differences in brain structure. People can only learn how to navigate life by focusing on their strengths.

Myth:  People with learning disabilities cannot learn.

Fact: People with learning disabilities can learn although in different ways.

  • Myth: Learning disabilities are not common.

Fact: One out of every 5 school students is identified as having a learning disability.

In a study carried out by the Dyslexia Foundation in Nigeria, it was found that over 32 million Nigerians are struggling with learning disabilities.

  • Myth:  Poor diet, watching too much TV, or lack of parent/teacher involvement are leading causes of learning disabilities.

Fact: Learning disability is a neurological condition which affects the brain’s ability to send, receive, and process information.

  • Myth: People with learning disabilities cannot be successful.

Fact: Did you know some successful people with learning disabilities include: Keanu Reeves, Richard Branson, Keira Knightley, Tommy Hilfiger, Jay Leno, and Albert Einstein among many.

 If a student is taught effectively, he is sure to be successful.

Learning disabilities are not emotional traumas or intellectual disabilities neither are they caused by improper guidance.

What then are the causes of learning disabilities?

Although several researches haven’t confirmed what the causes might be, experts have suggested that some possible causes include:

  • Family history and genetics: This is one common cause of LD. If it runs in the family, there are risks of the future generation developing a disorder.
  • Prenatal and birth risks. Poor growth in the uterus, exposure to drugs or alcohol and lack of oxygen before birth, premature or prolonged labor, and low birth weight are likable causes of learning disabilities.
  • Incidents after birth: Psychological trauma, nervous system infections, inadequate nutrients, head injuries early childhood abuse, exposure to toxins like lead can contribute to learning disabilities.

Wondering how to identify if your ward or learner has learning disabilities? Check out these symptoms:

The individual would have:

  • Short attention span.
  • Difficulty in reading, comprehending, spelling, writing or mastering math skills needed for a certain age.
  • Difficulty understanding and following instructions.
  • Poor memory
  • Lacks motor-coordinating skills while walking, playing or even while holding a pencil.
  • Easily loses or misplaces homework, schoolbooks or other items.
  • Has difficulty understanding the concept of time.
  • Consistently can’t complete tasks 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.
  • Places letters in incorrect sequence.

Some of these symptoms can be found in all children at some stages during development. However, a person with learning disabilities has a cluster of these symptoms which do not disappear as he grows older.

There are many types of learning disabilities. It can be mild, moderate, severe or profound, the most common ones are:

  • Dyscalculia sometimes referred to as “math dyslexia. Dyscalculia affects a person’s ability to understand math concepts, numbers, and reasoning.
  • Dyslexia, a language processing disorder that affects reading, comprehension, writing and other language skills.
  • Dysgraphia: This learning disability affects a person’s fine motor skills. Poor handwriting is a hallmark of dysgraphia although it isn’t a major symptom.
  • Difficulty with letter spacing, poor motor planning, trouble thinking and writing simultaneously are other symptoms of dysgraphia.
  • Dyspraxia also called developmental co-ordination disorder. It is a developmental disorder marked by clumsiness. It affects both fine motor skill (cutting, writing) and gross motor skills (running, jumping)
  • Delays in sitting or walking are some early symptoms.

The level of support needed by the sufferer varies from individual.

As a parent, you can help your child find and build success by:

Being an advocate for your child. You need to ensure that special help is provided for your child.

It could be frustrating at times, but remember the goal is to make a huge difference for your child.

Encourage their strengths and get the right support to help them overcome the things they find difficult.

  • Embracing your role as a proactive parent: While the school has a duty to profer solution to your ward, note that it will be only one part of the solution for your child.  You will need to offer support, encouragement and optimism.
  • Avoid complaining about your child’s disability do not compare their abilities with others.

As an educator, if your learner is struggling with learning disabilities, ensure to bring out the best in them while working on their weakness.

Remember, you don’t tag every struggling learner with learning disabilities until series of tests has been conducted, information gathered from multiple sources and of course, there are specialists to handle these.

Learning disabilities may be diagnosed by qualified schools, educational psychologists, clinical psychologists, or clinical neuropsychologists who are trained and experienced in the assessment of learning disabilities.

Learning disabilities are real. They aren’t a sign of failure because once addressed, the individual is able to maximize his potentials and lead independent lives.

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