Learning such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning,

Learning disabilities are neurologically-based
processing problems. These processing problems can interfere with learning
basic skills such as reading, writing and/or math.  They can also
interfere with higher level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract
reasoning, long or short term memory and attention.  It is important to
realize that learning disabilities can affect an individual’s life beyond
academics and can impact relationships with family, friends and in the
workplace.

people with learning disabilities are of average or above
average intelligence. There often appears to be a gap between the individual’s
potential and actual achievement. This is why learning disabilities are
referred to as “hidden disabilities”: the person looks perfectly “normal” and
seems to be a very bright and intelligent person, yet may be unable to
demonstrate the skill level expected from someone of a similar age

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Common Traits

Specific learning disabilities
commonly affect skills in the areas of:

·        
Reading (called dyslexia)

·        
Writing (called dysgraphia)

·        
Listening

·        
Speaking

·        
Reasoning

·        
Math (called dyscalculia)

Signs that a child might
have a learning disability tend to appear in elementary school. For example,
difficulty learning the alphabet, problems with following directions,
trouble transforming thoughts into written words and misreading math problems
are all possible indicators of a specific learning disability.

Educational Challenges

It’s clear from reading the above
traits that students with learning disabilities can face a number
of educational challenges. Oklahoma’s State Department of
Educationalludes to several of these challenges in their online
fact sheet on specific learning disabilities; they include:

·        
Difficulty reading out loud

·        
Poor reading comprehension

·        
Struggling to write papers and
essays

·        
Trouble understanding lectures

·        
Difficulty holding a pencil

 

Dyscalculia

Affects a person’s
ability to understand numbers and learn math facts.

Individuals with this type of
Learning Disability may also have poor comprehension of math symbols, may
struggle with memorizing and organizing numbers, have difficulty telling time,
or have trouble with counting.

Signs
and Symptoms

·        
Shows
difficulty understanding concepts of place value, and quantity, number lines,
positive and negative value, carrying and borrowing

·        
Has
difficulty understanding and doing word problems

·        
Has
difficulty sequencing information or events

·        
Exhibits
difficulty using steps involved in math operations

·        
Shows
difficulty understanding fractions

·        
Is
challenged making change and handling money

·        
Displays
difficulty recognizing patterns when adding, subtracting, multiplying, or
dividing

·        
Has
difficulty putting language to math processes

·        
Has
difficulty understanding concepts related to time such as days, weeks, months,
seasons, quarters, etc.

·        
Exhibits
difficulty organizing problems on the page, keeping numbers lined up, following
through on long division problems

Strategies

·        
Allow
use of fingers and scratch paper

·        
Use
diagrams and draw math concepts

·        
Provide
peer assistance

·        
Suggest
use of graph paper

·        
Suggest
use of colored pencils to differentiate problems

·        
Work
with manipulatives

·        
Draw
pictures of word problems

·        
Use
mnemonic devices to learn steps of a math concept

·        
Use
rhythm and music to teach math facts and to set steps to a beat

·        
Schedule
computer time for the student for drill and practice

Dysgraphia

Affects a person’s
handwriting ability and fine motor skills.

A person with this specific learning
disability may have problems including illegible handwriting, inconsistent
spacing, poor spatial planning on paper, poor spelling, and difficulty
composing writing as well as thinking and writing at the same time.

Signs
and Symptoms

·        
May
have illegible printing and cursive writing (despite appropriate time and
attention given the task)

·        
Shows
inconsistencies: mixtures of print and cursive, upper and lower case, or
irregular sizes, shapes or slant of letters

·        
Has
unfinished words or letters, omitted words

·        
Inconsistent
spacing between words and letters

·        
Exhibits
strange wrist, body or paper position

·        
Has
difficulty pre-visualizing letter formation

·        
Copying
or writing is slow or labored

·        
Shows
poor spatial planning on paper

·        
Has
cramped or unusual grip/may complain of sore hand

·        
Has
great difficulty thinking and writing at the same time (taking notes, creative
writing.)

Strategies

·        
Suggest
use of word processor

·        
Avoid
chastising student for sloppy, careless work

·        
Use
oral exams

·        
Allow
use of tape recorder for lectures

·        
Allow
the use of a note taker

·        
Provide
notes or outlines to reduce the amount of writing required

·        
Reduce
copying aspects of work (pre-printed math problems)

·        
Allow
use of wide rule paper and graph paper

·        
Suggest
use of pencil grips and /or specially designed writing aids

·        
Provide
alternatives to written assignments (video-taped reports, audio-taped reports)

Dyslexia

Affects reading
and related language-based processing skills.

The severity of this specific
learning disability can differ in each individual but can affect reading
fluency, decoding, reading comprehension, recall, writing, spelling, and
sometimes speech and can exist along with other related disorders. Dyslexia is
sometimes referred to as a Language-Based Learning Disability.

Signs
and Symptoms

·        
Reads
slowly and painfully

·        
Experiences
decoding errors, especially with the order of letters

·        
Shows
wide disparity between listening comprehension and reading comprehension of
some text

·        
Has
trouble with spelling

·        
May
have difficulty with handwriting

·        
Exhibits
difficulty recalling known words

·        
Has
difficulty with written language

·        
May
experience difficulty with math computations

·        
Decoding
real words is better than nonsense words

·        
Substitutes
one small sight word for another: a, I, he, the, there, was

Strategies

·        
Provide
a quiet area for activities like reading, answering comprehension questions

·        
Use
books on tape

·        
Use
books with large print and big spaces between lines

·        
Provide
a copy of lecture notes

·        
Don’t
count spelling on history, science or other similar tests

·        
Allow
alternative forms for book reports

·        
Allow
the use of a laptop or other computer for in-class essays

·        
Use
multi-sensory teaching methods

·        
Teach
students to use logic rather than rote memory

·        
Present
material in small units

 

Language Processing Disorder

Affects attaching
meaning to sound groups that form words, sentences and stories.

A specific type of Auditory
Processing Disorder (APD). While an APD affects the interpretation of all
sounds coming into the brain (e.g., processing sound in noisy backgrounds or
the sequence of sounds or where they come from), a Language Processing Disorder
(LPD) relates only to the processing of language. LPD can affect expressive
language (what you say) and/or receptive language (how you understand what
others say).

Signs
and Symptoms

·        
Has
difficulty gaining meaning from spoken language

·        
Demonstrates
poor written output

·        
Exhibits
poor reading comprehension

·        
Shows
difficulty expressing thoughts in verbal form

·        
Has
difficulty labeling objects or recognizing labels

·        
Is
often frustrated by having a lot to say and no way to say it

·        
Feels
that words are “right on the tip of my tongue”

·        
Can
describe an object and draw it, but can’t think of the word for it

·        
May
be depressed or having feelings of sadness

·        
Has
difficulty getting jokes

Strategies

·        
Speak
slowly and clearly and use simple sentences to convey information

·        
Refer
to a speech pathologist

·        
Allow
tape recorder for note taking

·        
Write
main concepts on board

·        
Provide
support person or peer tutor

·        
Use
visualization techniques to enhance listening and comprehension

·        
Use
of graphic organizers for note taking from lectures or books

·        
Use
story starters for creative writing assignments

·        
Practice
story mapping

·        
Draw
out details with questions and visualization strategies

 

Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities

Has trouble
interpreting nonverbal cues like facial expressions or body language and may
have poor coordination.

Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NVD
or NVLD), is a disorder which is usually characterized by a significant
discrepancy between higher verbal skills and weaker motor, visual-spatial and
social skills.

Signs
and Symptoms

·        
Has
trouble recognizing nonverbal cues such as facial expression or body language

·        
Shows
poor psycho-motor coordination; clumsy; seems to be constantly “getting in the
way,” bumping into people and objects

·        
Using
fine motor skills a challenge: tying shoes, writing, using scissors

·        
Needs
to verbally label everything that happens to comprehend circumstances, spatial
orientation, directional concepts and coordination; often lost or tardy

·        
Has
difficulty coping with changes in routing and transitions

·        
Has
difficulty generalizing previously learned information

·        
Has
difficulty following multi-step instructions

·        
Make
very literal translations

·        
Asks
too many questions, may be repetitive and inappropriately interrupt the flow of
a lesson

·        
Imparts
the “illusion of competence” because of the student’s strong verbal skills

Strategies

·        
Rehearse
getting from place to place

·        
Minimize
transitions and give several verbal cues before transition

·        
Avoid
assuming the student will automatically generalize instructions or concepts

·        
Verbally
point out similarities, differences and connections; number and present
instructions in sequence; simplify and break down abstract concepts, explain
metaphors, nuances and multiple meanings in reading material

·        
Answer
the student’s questions when possible, but let them know a specific number (three
vs. a few) and that you can answer three more at recess, or after school

·        
Allow
the child to abstain from participating in activities at signs of overload

·        
Thoroughly
prepare the child in advance for field trips, or other changes, regardless of
how minimal

·        
Implement
a modified schedule or creative programming

·        
Never
assume child understands something because he or she can “parrot back” what
you’ve just said

·        
Offer
added verbal explanations when the child seems lost or registers confusion

Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit

Affects the
understanding of information that a person sees, or the ability to draw or
copy.

A characteristic seen in people with
learning disabilities such as Dysgraphia or Non-verbal LD, it can result in
missing subtle differences in shapes or printed letters, losing place
frequently, struggles with cutting, holding pencil too tightly, or poor eye/hand
coordination.

Signs
and Symptoms

·        
May
have reversals: b for d, p for q or inversions: u for n, w for m

·        
Has
difficulty negotiating around campus

·        
Complains
eyes hurt and itch, rubs eyes, complains print blurs while reading

·        
Turns
head when reading across page or holds paper at odd angles

·        
Closes
one eye while working, may yawn while reading

·        
Cannot
copy accurately

·        
Loses
place frequently

·        
Does
not recognize an object/word if only part of it is shown

·        
Holds
pencil too tightly; often breaks pencil point/crayons

·        
Struggles
to cut or paste

·        
Misaligns
letters; may have messy papers, which can include letters colliding, irregular
spacing, letters not on line

Strategies

·        
Avoid
grading handwriting

·        
Allow
students to dictate creative stories

·        
Provide
alternative for written assignments

·        
Suggest
use of pencil grips and specially designed pencils and pens

·        
Allow
use of computer or word processor

·        
Restrict
copying tasks

·        
Provide
tracking tools: ruler, text windows

·        
Use
large print books

·        
Plan
to order or check out books on tape

·        
Experiment
with different paper types: pastels, graph, embossed raised line paper

Related Disorders

ADHD

Affects focus,
attention and behavior and can make learning challenging

A disorder that includes difficulty
staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior and
hyperactivity. Although ADHD is not considered a learning disability, research
indicates that from 30-50 percent of children with ADHD also have a specific
learning disability, and that the two conditions can interact to make learning
extremely challenging.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder is a condition that becomes apparent in some children in the preschool
and early school years. It is hard for these children to control their behavior
and/or pay attention. It is estimated that between 3 and 5 percent of children
have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or approximately 2
million children in the United States. This means that in a classroom of 24 to
30 children, it is likely that at least one will have ADHD.

ADHD is not considered
to be a learning disability. It can be determined to be a disability under the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), making a student eligible
to receive special education services. However, ADHD falls under the category
“Other Health Impaired” and not under “Specific Learning Disabilities.”

Many children with ADHD ¬
approximately 20 to 30 percent ¬ also have a specific learning disability.

The principle characteristics of ADHD
are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. There are three subtypes of
ADHD recognized by professionals. These are the predominantly
hyperactive/impulsive type (that does not show significant inattention); The
predominantly inattentive type (that does not show significant
hyperactive-impulsive behavior) sometimes called ADD; and the combined type
(that displays both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms).

Other disorders that sometimes
accompany ADHD are Tourette Syndrome (affecting a very small proportion of
people with ADHD); oppositional defiant disorder (affecting as many as
one-third to one-half of all children with ADHD); conduct disorder (about 20 to
40% of ADHD children); anxiety and depression; and bipolar disorder.

Dyspraxia

Problems with
movement and coordination, language and speech.

A disorder that is characterized by
difficulty in muscle control, which causes problems with movement and
coordination, language and speech, and can affect learning. Although not a
learning disability, Dyspraxia often exists along with Dyslexia, Dyscalculia or
ADHD.

Signs
and Symptoms

·        
Exhibits
poor balance; may appear clumsy; may frequently stumble

·        
Shows
difficulty with motor planning

·        
Demonstrates
inability to coordinate both sides of the body

·        
Has
poor hand-eye coordination

·        
Exhibits
weakness in the ability to organize self and belongings

·        
Shows
possible sensitivity to touch

·        
May
be distressed by loud noises or constant noises like the ticking of a clock or
someone tapping a pencil

·        
May
break things or choose toys that do not require skilled manipulation

·        
Has
difficulty with fine motor tasks such as coloring between the lines, putting
puzzles together; cutting accurately or pasting neatly

·        
Irritated
by scratchy, rough, tight or heavy clothing

Strategies

·        
Pre-set
students for touch with verbal prompts, “I’m going to touch your right hand.”

·        
Avoid
touching from behind or getting too close and make sure peers are aware of this

·        
Provide
a quiet place, without auditory or visual distractions, for testing, silent reading
or work that requires great concentration

·        
Warn
the student when bells will ring or if a fire drill is scheduled

·        
Whisper
when working one to one with the child

·        
Allow
parents to provide earplugs or sterile waxes for noisy events such as
assemblies

·        
Make
sure the parent knows about what is observed about the student in the classroom

·        
Refer
student for occupational therapy or sensory integration training

·        
Be
cognizant of light and light sources that may be irritating to child

·        
Use
manipulatives, but make sure they are in students field of vision and don’t
force student to touch them

Executive Functioning

Affects, planning,
organization, strategizing, attention to details and managing time and space.

An inefficiency in the cognitive
management systems of the brain that affects a variety of neuropsychological
processes such as planning, organization, strategizing, paying attention to and
remembering details, and managing time and space. Although not a learning
disability, different patterns of weakness in executive functioning are almost
always seen in the learning profiles of individuals who have specific learning
disabilities or ADHD.

Memory

Affects storing
and later retrieving information or getting information out.

Three types of memory are important
to learning, “working memory”, “short term memory” and “long term memory.” All
three types of memory are used in the processing of both verbal and non-verbal
information.

1.     
“Working memory” refers to the ability to
hold on to pieces of information until the pieces blend into a full thought or
concept. For example, reading each word until the end of a sentence or
paragraph and then understanding the full content.

2.     
“Short-term memory” is the active process of
storing and retaining information for a limited period of time. The information
is temporarily available but not yet stored for long-term retention.

3.     
“Long-term memory” refers to information that
has been stored and that is available over a long period of time. Individuals
might have difficulty with auditory memory or visual memory.

How
does it all work together to learn?

One reads a sentence and holds on to
it. Then the next and the next. By the end of the paragraph, he pulls together
the meaning of the full paragraph. This is working memory. He continues to read
the full chapter and study it. Information is retained long enough to take a
test and do well. This is short-term memory. But, unless the information is
reviewed and studied over a longer period of time, it is not retained. With
more effort over time, the information might become part of a general body of
knowledge. It is long-term memory.  If there are deficits in any or all of
these types of memory, the ability to store and retrieve information required
to carry out tasks can be impaired.

 

 

A disorder that
includes difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty
controlling behavior and hyperactivity. Although ADHD is not considered a
learning disability, from 30-50 percent of children with ADHD also have a
specific learning disability, and that the two conditions can interact to make
learning extremely challenging.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD) and learning disability (LD) can co-occur for a significant
minority of children with each disorder. A total of 17 studies (2001–2011)
examining ADHD-LD comorbidity were reviewed, revealing a higher mean comorbidity
rate (45.1%) than has been obtained previously. Higher comorbidity may be the
result of including students with writing disorders, not just reading and/or
math disabilities. Proposed DSM-5 criteria for both disorders
will likely affect comorbidity rates; however, it is unclear whether such rates
will increase or decrease. Regardless of the specific impact of DSM revisions,
academic skill and/or performance deficits should be assessed for students with
ADHD as part of screening, comprehensive evaluation, and treatment monitoring.
Comprehensive intervention services for students with comorbid ADHD and LD will
require empirically supported treatment strategies that address both disorders
and that are implemented across school and home settings.