Causes and Effects of Learning Difficulties

All learning disabilities are neurological disorders, the effects are from difference in the way an individual’s brain function. Children with learning disabilities can be as smart as their peers who do not have learning challenges. However, it can be difficult for children with learning disabilities to read, write, reason, recall information, spell and often times figure things out on their own without guidance. Learning disabilities are usually lifelong issues and they cannot be fixed or cured. Children that suffer from learning disabilities can succeed in school with the right support and supervision. Parents play an important part in a child’s success in school. Parents should encourage children’s strengths and know their weakness. They should understand the education system and learn about strategies in overcoming specific difficulties in the learning disability by collaborations and educating themselves by professionals. Many famous people in American history had learning disabilities such as Albert Einstein who wasn’t able to read until age nine (“What is a Learning Disability? | LD OnLine,” n.d.). According to the National Institutes of Health one in every seven Americans suffers from at least one learning disability. Reading difficulty dominates with up to 80 percent of students struggling with reading on a daily basis. Additionally, basic reading and language abilities are commonly present in children that suffer from learning disabilities. Modern medicine has come a long way in diagnosing and treating some of the common learning disabilities such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) and Dyslexia, as well as the lesser known Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Visual Perceptual and Visual Motor Deficit.

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Scientists are learning every day how to better diagnose and increase support for those that are burdened with learning challenges. If a child’s learning disability is discovered early enough in their life the right guidance can help the child develop the necessary skills needed to live a productive life. Recently the National Institute of Health held a study which revealed over 67 percent of students with reading difficulties becoming at an average level or above in reading after special help was provided in early grades. If a parent is educated and aware of the early signs of learning disabilities, they can recognize potential signs early and get them help. Many parents can recognize character in their children that can possibly be caused by learning disabilities. At a preschool age if a parent notices the pronunciation problems, difficulty following directions, slow vocabulary, pronunciation, trouble learning numbers, alphabet, colors and shapes and often speaks later than children their age they should get their child checked for learning disabilities. In kindergarten through fourth grade children with disabilities can show signs of slow learning the connections between letters and sounds, confusing basic words, making constant spelling and reading errors and poor coordination. Through grade 5 and 8 children may have difficulty with handwriting, reverse letter sequences, trouble making friends and trouble understanding body language and facial expressions. In high school and through their adult years a person with a learning disability may continue to spell incorrectly, have trouble summarizing, and difficulty adjusting to new settings.

Learning disabilities were an unknown phenomenon simply chalked up to be Minima brain damage prior to the 1940’s. There was no difference between a student with brain damage, and a lower IQ, versus a student with a high intelligence and a learning disability (“History of Learning Disabilities (Part 1),” n.d.). Dr. Douglas Haddad says “children who exhibited difficulties in learning were thought to be mentally retarded, displayed emotional disturbances, or be socially and culturally disturbed. Early studies on individuals with learning problems reported that they had the same learning problems as individuals who were shown to have brain damage, but appeared normal, otherwise. Thus, the term “minimal brain damage” was introduced. “. Further research suggested that these learning issues were not so much issues with the brain itself, but more biologically stimulated learning disabilities. The term “minimal brain dysfunction” (MBD) was introduced.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy created the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation (Chiles, 1987). Increasing amounts of cases caused interest in student learning, and research began. “In 1969, the federal government recognized “specific learning disabilities” as a category with special education. The concept of specific learning disabilities referred to a certain subgroup of students who did not achieve academically with their ability, seemingly due to a central nervous system dysfunction that was mainly attributed to a wide spectrum of psychological disorders.” -Dr. Douglas Haddad. Now students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have special programs set up for them to learn in an environment unique to their needs.

Our senses are separated, so not everything that our ears hear is interpreted by our brains. This would be the case with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). Students with this disorder can have hearing that is passing, or even above average for their auditory test, but have trouble learning due to the fact that they cannot interpret the sounds that they hear. For the average person the brain processes sounds seamlessly and almost instantly. With APD, some difference mixes that process, to a child with APD, “Do you want to ride your bike or watch a movie?” may be processed or perceived as “Do you like Mike or batch cookies”. It can make simple questions or commands extremely difficult for someone who has been diagnosed with APD. Other learning disorders present very similar problems in daily tasks. Dyscalculia and Dysgraphia are two examples of other learning disorders that can make the normal learning process a difficult and uncomfortable experience. Dyscalculia is defined as a mathematical disability in which a person has a difficult time solving arithmetic problems and grasping math concepts. Dysgraphia is defined as a writing disability in which a person finds it hard to form letter or write within a defined space.

Children and adults can suffer from one or more of these learning disabilities which would make conventional learning extremely difficult (“Understood | For Learning and Attention Issues – Understood,” n.d.). The understood team, authors for say ”Many children with APD also have dyslexia, ADHD and other conditions. Recent research suggests that auditory processing issues may be a contributing factor to dyslexia.” Professionals can diagnose these different learning disorders, and generally they diagnose them at a young age. There is no difference in what these children see or hear, but there is a major difference in the way that they receive this information. They can struggle in one area such as Math, or English, or even memory but excel in others. Specialized teachers can play a major part in ensuring that these children succeed in today’s world.

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder had first been described in 1902 by a Sir George Still, followed by the evidence that ADHD could arise from brain injury in 1923 by a Franklin Ebaugh; in 1967 the Federal Government funds (National Institute of Mental Health) first used for studying effects of stimulants on children with hyperactivity. Statistics of ADHD had begun in 1972 with a little under 6% for the National Health Interview Survey, followed by a second survey in 1976 with statistics closer to 5% in a time where Cylert, Dextrostat and Dexadrine had come on to the market to compete with Adderall (“Data and Statistics | ADHD | NCBDDD | CDC,” n.d.). This however was the beginning of the mediation processes which had started to overtake practical practices of helping this dysfunction. The rates of ADHD only continued to grow by a slower percentage, but picking up to approximately 3% per year from 1997 to 2006 and an average of approximately 5% per year from 2003 to 2011, surveys showing that the increase is growing exponentially by the years! In 2003 the survey had a statistic result of 7.8% for children diagnosed, then had grown to 9.5% in 2007 and in 2011 the statistic was up to 11% in children between the ages of 4-17 (6.4 million). The average varied from state to state with a low 5.6% in Nevada to a high of 18.7% in Kentucky (“Data and Statistics | ADHD | NCBDDD | CDC,” n.d.). Kids with ADHD tend to be easily distracted, missing details, and frequently changing what they are doing at the very moment after a few minutes. They have difficulty focusing on one thing and become bored very easily. Many times they have trouble focusing, organizing, learning and completing homework, often losing things such as pencils and toys. Day dreaming is common, difficulty processing information quickly and accurately, as well as following guidance or instructions. Also symptoms of hyperactivity may cause fighting, nonstop talking, dashing around, having difficulty doing tasks quietly and impulsively blurt out random comments, show emotions without restraint (“NIMH • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” n.d.). Many victims of this disability are usually overlooked due to adults thinking it is simply disciplinary problems, but ADHD is growing because of genes, environmental factors, brain injuries, sugary foods and additives in foods. ADHD is treated with medications and various types of psychotherapy or combination of the treatments. The parents who have kids with this condition can help by making structure in the child’s life, such as organizing everyday items, using homework and notebook organizers, being clear and consistent, especially giving praise or rewards when rules are followed. Formal definition of dyslexia is “a disorder in children who, despite conventional classroom experience, fail to attain the language skills of reading, writing and spelling commensurate with their intellectual abilities (World Federation of Neurology, 1968, pg 26). . Dyslexia was first unknowingly discovered in 1890’s and early 1900s by a British ophthalmologist named James Hinshelwood. He defines it as “a congenital defect, occurring in children with otherwise normal and undamaged brains characterized by a difficulty in learning to read.” He noticed symptoms like difficulty reading and writing also letter reversal was largely common. Later on a neurologist in 1925 by the name of Samuel T. Orton worked primarily on stroke victims until he met a girl who could not read and had the same symptoms of those stroke victims. He then began to research, reading difficulties that are unrelated to brain damage and has determined a syndrome as such. Orton had observed that visual deficits did not cause dyslexia, but something else did. His theory was that the condition was caused in the brain by failure to establish hemispheric dominance. Orton also noticed that the children he was studying were largely left or mixed handed (Henry, 1998). Each individual experiences different severity of this learning disability, but all have the same symptoms that affect reading, fluency and comprehension, recalling information, writing, spelling and in some cases speech patterns. Dyslexia can also exist with other learning disabilities and can sometimes be the cause of those with learning disabilities. Dyslexia is often called the language based learning disability due to most of its symptoms being language related (“Dyslexia,” n.d.).

Symptoms of dyslexia may include reading slowly, experiencing disorder of letters, difficulty with math computation and difficulty recalling known words. Some strategies in overcoming dyslexia include using Audiobooks and books with large print and spacing between the lines. Teachers should use other methods to allow progress for student with dyslexia such as allowing alternate forms of book reports, provide students with a copy of lecture notes, and teach student to use logic rather than memory on tests and other work. Through our eyesight we gain visual information that helps us process our surroundings and allows us to manage our daily activities. Our visual perception plays a key role in our abilities to learn mathematics, spelling and reading. Deficits in visual perception can lead to learning deficiencies in learning basic mathematics, recognizing and remembering words and letters, also the mathematical concepts of size and position, as well as mixing up words with similar beginnings and poor handwriting. All these characteristically been associated with learning disabilities of visual processing disorder. Auditory processing disorder involves a deficit in a person’s ability to analyze information received through hearing. It is not to be confused with problems such as deafness or being hard of hearing. A person with auditory processing disorder can hear just fine the issue is much deeper in the way the brain processes the information received. This learning disability interferes with language and speech learning as well as reading and spelling. Especially when instructions given in classrooms are primarily verbal, a child with this deficit can have extremely hard time following instructions and understanding the lesson. Some ways teachers can help students with this disability include allowing students to dictate creative stories, allowing use of computer word processing, avoiding grading handwriting, using large print books, providing tracking tools for reading such as rulers and text windows and providing alternatives to written assignments for those students (“Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit,” n.d.). In comparison to the general population people with learning disabilities have a greater chance of developing physical and mental issues. As a result of their lack of ability to properly describe their symptoms to a health care professional many are left untreated. Although life expectancy is increasing over time individuals with learning disability still are at a higher risk of early death (Hollins et al., 1998; McGuigan et al., 1995). Parents play a great role in a child learning process, especially when a child has a learning deficiency. Parents need to keep things in perspective, if to help their child succeed. Learning disabilities are not undefeatable, give your child plenty of physical and emotional support. Be an expert in your child, every child is unique even when they have the same learning disability do your own research into what helps and what does for your child. Learn about programs and techniques that can improve their learning ability. Embrace being a proactive parent and speak up for your child to get special attention they need from teachers and other educators but remain calm and realistic. Remember to be a good role model for your child as they do follow in your footsteps regardless of learning disability or not.




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