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INTRODUCTION
All children and adults experience some challenges with school or work. These, in children may appear in the form of challenges with homework, certain concepts, or difficulty in certain learning areas. These difficulties are usually overcome with extra help or different ways or forms of explanation by the teacher and the learner is able to continue successfully with his or her learning.
If however, the learning problem in a particular learning area is consistent, then this may be an indication of a learning disorder. “Learning disorders are not an intelligence or motivation problem.” (“Learning Disabilities: A Handbook for Parents and Teachers”, 2015)
In this assignment I will be attempt to distinguish between Learning Disorders and Learning Problems. Learning disorders will be discussed in depth: diagnostic criteria, common types, etiology, characteristics, incidence, prevalence and prognosis. I will compare Learning Disorders to associated Disorders like Intellectual Impairment and Attention Deficit Disorder. How learners who have a learning disorder are affected and intervention strategies will also be discussed.
For the purpose of this assignment the terminology Learning Disorder will be used. In many countries, as in many texts, the term Learning Disability is used instead.

LEARNING PROBLEMS AND LEARNING DISORDERS
Learning Problems
“Learning problems are extrinsic in nature.” (Nel, Nel & Hugo, 2016) According to Nel, Nel and Hugo (2016) pg 52 , a learner experiences learning difficulties due to extrinsic factors like trauma, or where a learner does not understand a particular concept or a learner does not get along with the teacher or learner has sensory impairments. Learners experience challenges in few subjects or in areas of a particular subject.
Learning problems may occur when a learner experiences visual, auditory or physical impairments. When a learner has specific learning needs due to the impairment he/she has e.g. worksheets and notes with larger fonts for learners with visual impairments or notes taped on a Dictaphone, or picture cues for learners with auditory impairments etc.
Learning problems may also occur when learners learn in their second language and when learners grow up in an environment where opportunities are unavailable, i.e. learners experience environmental, cultural or economic disadvantages. Such factors would include learners being exposed to diseases or illnesses like TB or HIV, Polio, AIDS etc. or where learners do not receive opportunities to extend or build on their motor, perceptual or literacy skills e.g. unavailability of reading books or learning material.

Poor nutrition is also a contributing factor for a learning problem.

Another cause of learning problems may be when a learner experiences neurological impairment (mental retardation) or emotional disturbances.
Learning Disorders
“Learning disorders are neurologically based processing problems that may interfere with basic skills such as reading, maths and writing.” (“Types of Learning Disabilities”, 2018 paragraph 1). Learners with a learning disorder experience learning difficulties of an intrinsic nature. They have average or above average intelligence. There is usually a gap between potential and achievement. “Learning disorders cannot be cured or corrected but with the correct support and interventions success can be achieved.” (“Types of Learning Disabilities”, 2018, paragraph 4)
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) has taken a different approach to learning disorders compared to previous editions. The overall diagnosis that incorporates problems or shortfalls that influence academic achievement is given the name Specific Learning Disorders (SLD). The criteria in DSM 5 describe shortcomings in general academic skills and provide specific criteria for the areas of reading, written expression and mathematics. (“Specific learning disorder”, n.d)
According to DSM 5 Specific Learning Disorder is defined as follows: “Learning disorders interfering with the acquisition and use of one or more of the following academic skills: oral language, reading, written language, mathematics. These disorders affect individuals who otherwise demonstrate at least average abilities essential for thinking or reasoning. As such Learning Disorders are distinct from Intellectual Development Disorders.” (Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 2013)
According to IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), specific learning disorder is defined as “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using spoken or written language and may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, reads, write, spell or do mathematical calculations.” (“IDEA | LD OnLine”, 2004)
Disorders do not include a learning problem that is a result of visual, hearing or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of an environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage.

Disorders include conditions as perceptual disorders, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and developmental aphasia.

Children and adults with learning disorders see, hear and understand things differently. This may lead to problems with learning new information and skills. These individuals are not lazy or dumb. Their brains just seem to be ‘wired’ in a different way.

“Learning disorders are neurological or brain-based problems that affect one or more ways that a person takes in, stores or uses information.” (“Learning Disabilities: A Handbook for Parents and Teachers”, 2015). The diagram below shows the path of how information enters and leaves the brain.

-200025170815Information into the brain
INPUT
Making sense of information
ORGANISATION
Storing/ Retrieving information
MEMORY
Getting information out
OUTPUT
00Information into the brain
INPUT
Making sense of information
ORGANISATION
Storing/ Retrieving information
MEMORY
Getting information out
OUTPUT

The effects of learning disorders vary from individual to individual and therefore there is no one set of criteria.

The most common types of learning disorders would include the following:
Dyslexia: where a learner has difficulty with reading and experiences problems in one or some areas of reading, writing, spelling or speaking.

Dysgraphia: where a learner has difficulty with writing and experiences problems with handwriting, spelling and/or organising ideas.

Dyscalculia: where a learner has difficulty with math and experiences problems with doing problem sums, understanding concepts
Dyspraxia: where a learner has difficulty with motor skills and experiences problems with hand eye co-ordination, balance and/or manual dexterity.

Auditory Processing Disorder: where a learner experiences difficulty hearing differences between sounds. The learner may have problems with reading, comprehension and/or language.

Visual Processing: where a learner experiences difficulty interpreting visual information. A learner may experience problems with reading, maths, maps, charts, symbols and pictures.

It is important to note that not all the above problems need be present all the time.

Common signs of the above disorders would include:
READING WRITING MATHS
Difficulty associating or receiving sounds that go with letters Difficulty in ability to express thoughts on paper Slow to develop counting and problem solving skills
Difficulty separating sounds within words Tight or awkward pencil grip Difficulty recalling number sequence
Difficulty sounding out words. Trouble with rhyming Illegible handwriting Difficulty completing mental math
Difficulty understanding words and using words and grammar Speaking words out loud while writing Problems with time concepts
Poor spelling Difficulty in grammar and syntax structure Poor sense of direction
Avoiding writing tasks Computing problems
Difficulty organising thoughts when needs to write them down Erratic- maybe able to complete problem one day but is lost the next day.

All the signs do not have to be present nor can a learner be diagnosed by just exhibiting one sign. Specific criteria need to be met before a learner is diagnosed.

LEARNING DISORDERS: DIAGNOSTIC CRITERIA
There are clear criterion for the diagnosis of learning disorders. According to the DSM 5 the following four criteria need to be met to be diagnosed with a specific learning disorder. (Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 2013)
Learners must experience ongoing difficulties in at least one academic skill (reading accuracy/ fluency, spelling accuracy, written expression and fluency, mastering number facts). These difficulties remain despite intervention for at least six months.

Difficulties experienced by learners will be assessed using standardised tests and results found should be at a level lower than most learners at the same age.

Difficulties experienced by learners are apparent in early years of schooling unless where difficulties occur in upper primary or secondary school where the demand on learners’ performance increases.

Learning disorders will not be diagnosed if the learner has an intellectual disability, a sensory impairment, a history of absenteeism, second language of instruction, psychosocial problems or inappropriate instruction or intervention, i.e. if the learning problem is due to extrinsic factors.

All four criteria must be met. The level of disability is described as mild, moderate or severe depending on the degree to which the learner struggles and the amount of support that is required in terms of remediation and accommodation.

LEARNING DISORDERS: ETIOLOGY
In most cases the cause of a learning disorder is unknown. According to the Learning Disability Handbook for Parents and Teachers (“Learning Disabilities: A Handbook for Parents and Teachers”, 2015) the following are some likely causes that are thought to cause learning disorders.
Brain Damage or Dysfunction: Many professionals believe that learning disorders occur due to minor dysfunction in how the brain processes information. The brain structure in individuals with learning disorders may be slightly different than individuals without.

Pregnancy and Birth Problems: Lack of oxygen to a baby’s brain due to the umbilical cord around the baby’s neck. An infection may occur whereby a mother’s immune system attacks the unborn child causing newly formed brain cells to settle in the wrong part of the brain.

Tabaco, Alcohol, Drugs: May have damaging effects on the foetus e.g. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Toxins: Children exposed to environmental toxins e.g. cadmium and lead, may cause neurological dysfunction.

Genetic: Some research has found that children with learning disorders may most likely have a parent with a learning disorder. However, this is inconclusive. Research shows that dyslexia has strong genetic links. It is important to note that genes do not limit one’s potential but provides a foundation to work and grow from.

LEARNING DISORDERS: CHARACTERISTICS
Listed below are general, common characteristics of learning disorders. A learner may not display all the characteristics at the same time or at all.

Learner does not make adequate progress and keep up with their peers academically
Learner is inconsistent in his/her ability to understand and complete schoolwork
Learner may show variations in standardised test scores
Learner may have average or above average IQ
Learner may display poor motor abilities
Learner may have display poor social skills
Learner may display disorders of attention
Learner may have information processing deficits
Learner may display poor executive function
Learner may have trouble/difficulty learning the alphabet, rhyming words or connecting letters to sounds.

Learner may make many mistakes when reading aloud and pause and repeat often
Learner may lack or have poor understanding of what he/she has read
Learner has poor spelling abilities
Learner has poor handwriting and/or holds the pencil awkwardly
Learner struggles with expressing ideas in writing
Learner has limited vocabulary or learns language late
Learner has difficulty understanding jokes, comic strips and sarcasm
Learner has difficulty following instructions/ directions
Mispronunciation of words or incorrect usage of words or words that sound similar by learner
Learner has difficulty organising what he/she wants to say or forgets the word
Learner has difficulty following social rules e.g. taking turns, standing too close
Learner confuses math symbols and misreads numbers
Learner has difficulty with sequencing a story
The following tables were made from information adapted from (“Types of Learning Disabilities”, 2018) and (“Learning Disabilities Basic”, 2003) and show the common signs, symptoms and strategies for the different types of Learning Disorders.

DISORDER SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS STRATEGIES
DYSLEXIA 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
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
DYSGRAPHIA 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 laboured
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.)
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)
DYSCALCULIA 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
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
DYSPRAXIA 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 colouring between the lines, putting puzzles together; cutting accurately or pasting neatly
Irritated by scratchy, rough, tight or heavy clothing
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
AUDITORY PROCESSING DISORDER Has difficulty processing and remembering language-related tasks but may have no trouble interpreting or recalling non-verbal environmental sounds, music, etc.

May process thoughts and ideas slowly and have difficulty explaining them
Misspells and mispronounces similar-sounding words or omits syllables; confuses similar-sounding words (celery/salary; belt/built; three/free; jab/job; bash/batch)
May be confused by figurative language (metaphor, similes) or misunderstand puns and jokes; interprets words too literally
Often is distracted by background sounds/noises
Finds it difficult to stay focused on or remember a verbal presentation or lecture
May misinterpret or have difficulty remembering oral directions; difficulty following directions in a series
Has difficulty comprehending complex sentence structure or rapid speech
“Ignores” people, especially if engrossed
Says “What?” a lot, even when has heard much of what was said
Show rather than explain
Supplement with more intact senses (use visual cues, signals, handouts, manipulatives)
Reduce or space directions, give cues such as “ready?”
Reword or help decipher confusing oral and/or written directions
Teach abstract vocabulary, word roots, synonyms/antonyms
Vary pitch and tone of voice, alter pace, stress key words
Ask specific questions as you teach to find out if they do understand
Allow them 5-6 seconds to respond (“think time”)
Have the student constantly verbalize concepts, vocabulary words, rules, etc.

VISUAL PERCEPTUAL 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
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
LANGUAGE PROCESSING DISORDER 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
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 DISORDER 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
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
(“Types of Learning Disabilities”, 2018)
READING DISORDER SIGNS STRATEGIES
DECODING DIFFICULTIES
? difficulty sounding out words and recognizing words out of context
? confusion between letters and the sounds they represent
? slow reading rate when reading aloud (reading word-by-word)
? reading without expression
? ignoring punctuation while reading Play word games.

Read aloud every day.

Model reading as an enjoyable activity.

Put learning to use.

Listen to books.

Read to your child every night.

Engage childrens senses while learning.

COMPREHENSION DIFFICULTIES
? confusion about the meaning of words and sentences
? inability to connect ideas in a passage
? omission of, or glossing over, detail
? difficulty distinguishing significant information from minor details
? lack of concentration during reading RETENTION DIFFICULTIES
? trouble remembering or summarizing what is read
? difficulty connecting what is read to prior knowledge
? difficulty applying content of a text to personal experiences
? inability to view content from multiple perspectives READING DISORDER SIGNS STRATEGIES
DECODING DIFFICULTIES
? difficulty sounding out words and recognizing words out of context
? confusion between letters and the sounds they represent
? slow reading rate when reading aloud (reading word-by-word)
? reading without expression
? ignoring punctuation while reading Play word games.

Read aloud every day.

Model reading as an enjoyable activity.

Put learning to use.

Listen to books.

Read to your child every night.

Engage childrens senses while learning.

COMPREHENSION DIFFICULTIES
? confusion about the meaning of words and sentences
? inability to connect ideas in a passage
? omission of, or glossing over, detail
? difficulty distinguishing significant information from minor details
? lack of concentration during reading RETENTION DIFFICULTIES
? trouble remembering or summarizing what is read
? difficulty connecting what is read to prior knowledge
? difficulty applying content of a text to personal experiences
? inability to view content from multiple perspectives WRITING DISORDER SIGNS STRATEGIES
GRAPHOMOTOR
? very short passages in all written work
? exceptionally slow and difficult writing
? awkward pencil grip
? difficulty forming letters Create a safe environment for writing.

Make your expectations explicit.

Evaluate content and mechanics separately.

Encourage a variety of writing activities.

Encourage free writing.

Separate the creative aspects of writing from the motor aspects.

Allow enough time for each assignment.

Provide time for revision and proofreading.

Introduce your child to one of a variety of simple graphic organizers.

Provide access to programs or tutors that can help your child improve his or her word processing skills
ATTENTION
? difficulty getting started on writing assignments
? easy distractibility during writing tasks
? mental fatigue or tiredness while writing
? inconsistent legibility in writing
? many careless errors
? poorly planned papers and reports SPATIAL ORDERING
? poor use of lines on the paper
? organizational problems
? uneven spacing between letters
? many misspelled words SEQUENTIAL ORDERING
? poor letter formation
? transposed letters and spelling omissions
? poor narrative sequencing
? lack of transitions
? difficulty separating big ideas from details MEMORY
? poor vocabulary
? many misspelled words
? frequent capitalization, punctuation, and grammar errors LANGUAGE
? poor vocabulary
? awkward phrasing and unconventional grammar
? inappropriate use of colloquial language
? difficulty with sentence structure and word order
? trouble reading back what is written
? difficulty with word sounds, spelling, and meanings HIGHER ORDER COGNITION
? trouble generating ideas or elaborating on them
? difficulty developing and organizing ideas
? lack of opinion or sense of audience
? difficulty with writing tasks that require creativity and/or critical thinking MATH DISORDER SIGNS STRATEGIES
NUMBER FACTS
? be unable to recall basic math facts, procedures, rules, or formulas
? be very slow to retrieve facts or pursue procedures
? have difficulties with precision during mathematical work ? Maintain consistency and communication across school and home settings.

? Teach basic concepts using concrete objects.

? Provide specialized materials.

? Make your expectations explicit.

? Provide time for checking work.

? Give children opportunities to connect mathematical concepts to familiar situations.

? Help children apply math concepts to new situations.

? Provide access to programs or tutors that can help a child improve his or her math skills.

? Help children keep track of problematic areas.

? Play math games
COMPUTATION
? have difficulties with handwriting that slow down written work or make it hard to read later
? have difficulty remembering previously encountered patterns
? forget what he or she is doing in the middle of a math problem (this may also indicate an attention problem)
? have difficulties sequencing multiple steps
? lose appreciation of the final goal and overemphasize individual elements of a problem
? feel overloaded when faced with a worksheet full of math exercises
? not be able to copy problems correctly KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER
? not be able to distinguish between what is important in a math problem and what is not, particularly in word problems that include irrelevant information
? be unable to appreciate the appropriateness or reasonableness of solutions generated
? find it difficult to switch between multiple demands in a complex math problem
? have difficulty interpreting and manipulating geometric configurations
? find it difficult to tell when tasks can be grouped or merged and when they must be separated in a multi-step math problem LANGUAGE OF MATH
? be confused by language in word problems
? have trouble learning or recalling specialized terms
? have difficulty understanding directions
? be unable to explain their confusion about math concepts and procedures
? have difficulty reading texts to direct their own learning
? have difficulty remembering assigned values or definitions in specific problems SPATIAL ORGANISATION
? have difficulty laying out problems in a neat and organized manner
? be unable to describe what a three-dimensional object would look like if the object is rotated and viewed from a different angle
? be unable to comprehend what quantities and mathematical formulas represent in the real world (“Learning Disabilities Basic”, 2003)
LEARNING DISORDERS: INCIDENCE AND PREVALENCE
As quoted in (“Learning Disabilities Statistics”, 2018) “There are no clear statistics on learning disorders. Some research show between 10%-30% of children have a learning disorder. Some studies also show that most learning disorders are more prevalent in boys than in girls.” Also learning disorders are probably the most frequently diagnosed developmental disorders in childhood.
According to the Learning Disability Association of America, (“Learning disabilities”, 2018) 8-10% of American children have some type of learning disorder.
Studies also report, according to DSM 5 (Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 2013) “prevalence rates of 4-9% for reading deficits and 3-7% for mathematical deficits.”
According to PACFOLD (Putting a face on learning disabilities) 49% of Canadian children between 6-15 years have learning disorders. (“Learning Disabilities Statistics”, 2018)
LEARNING DISORDERS: PROGNOSIS
Learning disorders can be lifelong conditions. Some may experience an isolated learning difficulty that has little or no impact on their lives, while others may have several overlapping disabilities.

There is no one cure for learning disorders. These disorders are lifelong but learners can be taught (through intervention) ways to get around their learning disorder and can be high achievers. With the correct interventions children with learning disorders can and do learn successfully.

Children can adapt and improve their weak skills. They can also learn to develop their personal strengths and become productive and successful adults.

Some believe that neuroplasticity provides a new hope for treating learning disorders. “Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s natural, lifelong ability to change. Throughout life, the brain is able to form new connections and generate new brain cells in response to experience and learning.” (Kemp, Smit & Sagal, n.d.)
LEARNING DISORDERS AND ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER (ADD)
ADD can cause a learning disorder. Both share common traits but have different and distinctive causes.
While the exact cause of ADD is unknown, according to researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, in a 2011 study, (Bailey, 2017), scientist found that certain areas of the brain (such as cognitive and motor control areas) are smaller in children with ADD. Children with smaller with smaller brain volume are also more likely to have hyperactivity and impulsivity. It was also found, by David Mandelbaum of the Child Neurology Foundation, that there is decreased activity in the frontal lobes of children with ADD due to low dopamine levels, caused partly due to chemical problems in the brain. This low activity causes attention problems, impulsivity and hyperactivity. (Bailey, 2017).

ADD is considered a medical problem and is diagnosed by a medical doctor or qualified health care professional.

Different parts of the brain communicate with each other through neural networks. In learners and adults with learning disorders it is the ‘wiring’ that experiences difficulties. The ability to receive, store, process and retrieve information results in difficulties in speech, reading, writing, following directions and problem solving. A learning disorder is diagnosed following a psychoeducational analysis.

It is possible to have ADD alone, a learning disorder without ADD or both. Between 20-30% of children with ADD also have a learning disorder according to the Learning Disability Association of America. (“Learning disabilities”, 2018)
The symptoms of ADD include inattention, poor concentration, inability for learner to sit still for long periods of time, reacting without thinking. These symptoms may cause learning disorders and may also mimic learning disorders e.g. inability to stay focused and pay attention may resemble memory problems.

ADD is treated with medication or behavioural strategies whereas Learning disorders are not treated with medication.

LEARNING DISORDERS AND INTELLECTUAL IMPAIRMENT
Intellectual impairment is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects one’s academic, social, communication and daily life function. It is the term used to describe individuals with below average intelligence where one’s intellectual capabilities are affected.

Learning disorders refer to weaknesses in certain academic skills, e.g. reading, writing, and math and does not affect overall intellectual capabilities but affects ways in which one processes information.
Children with learning disorders may be able to overcome difficulties by adapting their learning process and anticipating challenges. Diagnosis helps pave a clear path towards educational goals through coping mechanisms and adjustments.

Intellectual impairment requires treatment that addresses more than just learning goals. Some skills may be learnt over time but some social skills may remain lifelong challenges. Some may continue to need assistance as adults.

People with learning disorders are able to and expected to be fully independent adults.
IMPACT OF LEARNING DISORDERS ON LEARNERS
Learners with learning disorders may struggle in many areas of schoolwork, e.g. learners with language process disabilities will find reading and writing slow and challenging. Learners with memory issues may need to reread or re-listen to text and instruction. The time taken to process information may take longer thus making answering questions or replying to questions more stressful. This leads to low self- esteem and frustration for the learner. Learners with learning disorders often refuse to participate in activities for fear of being ridiculed.
On a social level, learners’ with learning disorders may have difficulty maintaining friendships, relationships or keeping a job as planning and reading, organisation or social cues could be challenging. This however is not always the case. Depending on the learning disorder, it is difficult for learners’ to read social cues or to adapt to social situations.

Some learners’ with learning disorders prefer to play or be by themselves as they are often self-conscious about their disorder. Many may prefer to be the observer in a conversation or game rather than be a participant.

Children with learning disorders are likely to develop anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, feelings of frustration, shame or perceived stigma.
Children are at great risk of being bullied and victimised, experience social isolation and rejection or feelings of loneliness.
Family life is also affected especially when the other siblings do not have a learning disorder. Once again all the emotional aspects come into play making it very difficult for the learner.
It is important for individuals to recognise their strengths and weaknesses so that their needs can be better explained to others.
INTERVENTION STRATEGIES AND PLANS TO SUPPORT LEARNING DISORDERS
The following interventions may be used successfully:
Material and tasks should be separated into smaller more manageable units. Lessons and topics should be taught as mini lessons. Additional information or lessons should be provided. That is divide and conquer.

Lessons should be well prepared and presented in a logical and organised manner. Time should be spent at the end of the topic to overview the topic and all new topics should always be well previewed. Past learning experiences should be linked to new ones.

Be creative in lessons. Each individual learns in a unique way. It is important to use a learner’s strengths when teaching. Use different resources like audiotapes, video clips, charts, pictures, larger print books and worksheets. For example if a learner struggles to read , rather show him/her a video clip about the topic or record notes for a learner to listen to or role play the events. Use a range of activities and lessons that utilise kinaesthetic, visual or auditory modalities. Use what works best for the learner. Give students the chance on how to present their knowledge so that strengths can be highlighted. Use scaffolding and give constant feedback.Use constant repetition. Use a slower pace and provide visuals like pictures, maps or photographs. Provide extra lessons to re-teach topics.

Some learners learn better by listening (auditory) and some by seeing (visual). Use these strengths to consolidate information.

Use colour coding and underlining strategies. Prompt learners constantly with subtle hints and reminders. Repeat key concepts. Use your hands to point to parts on a chart or show numbers using your fingers.

Allow and prompt active participation and engage students in their own learning. Use debates, group work, paired discussion etc. Strive to make lessons interactive.
Adapt and alter assignments to the learners’ level. Allow the use of multiplication charts in tests. Use multiple choice, true or false or matching type questions for learners who have difficulty writing. Utilise ‘fill in the blanks’ type of notes.
For learners who have difficulty reading, the use of a Dictaphone to hear the questions or notes can be used.
In a test give fewer questions and extended time on exams. Also use open-ended response questions. Mark for understanding rather than grammar. Keep tests and exams simple assessing skills that learner needs to know.
If the learner and/or school has the resources, the use of technology, I pads, smart tablets and devices can be effectively through different apps, e.g. Dragon, Speech to Text etc.
Always use a learners’ strengths to overcome their weaknesses. Remember each individual is different and has different learning needs.
Please refer to the tables on pages 10 -17 for strategies for the different types of learning disorders

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