Learning disabilities are very common, with an estimated 1 in 5 people having a learning disability. At its most basic definition, a learning disability is any mental condition that keeps someone from having the same amount of knowledge as their peers. While most people typically think of math and reading skills when it comes to this, it is also applicable to someone’s ability to write and interact socially with others.
Learning disabilities result from genetic or neurobiological factors, or a combination of the two, that alter brain functioning. When this happens, it can affect one or more cognitive processes related to learning. These problems commonly appear when working on the school subjects of reading, writing, or math.
However, learning disabilities may also impact someone’s skills in organization, abstract reasoning, time management, attention, and long or short-term memory. There are four main learning disabilities, each one impacting a different set of skills.
Perhaps the most common and well-known learning disability, dyslexia affects someone’s reading and related language-based processing skills. Those with dyslexia have a hard time with spelling, decoding, and word recognition. Because of this, their reading comprehension may be impaired.
Those with dyslexia may have a hard time hearing, manipulating, and identifying the sound structure of a word. They may also struggle with connecting letters and letter combinations with the sounds they should make.
This learning disability affects how well someone can understand numbers and math facts. Because of this, they often have a harder time completing math calculations.
Dyscalculia stems from a weakness in number representation and processing. This then leads to difficulties in the following areas:
- adding or subtracting number sets without counting
- completing simple numerical operations without speaking out loud
- estimating the relative magnitude of a set of numbers.
Since these math skills lay a foundation, those with dyscalculia likely have impaired quantitative reasoning as they progress to higher level math.
With dysgraphia, the child has a hard time with their fine motor skills, which is especially apparent with their handwriting ability. They have a hard time writing legibly, and this can include writing both letters and numbers.
Those with dysgraphia have a hard time with storing and automatically retrieving the needed letters and numbers, which is why they struggle with writing legibly.
Many times, those with dysgraphia also show difficulties with organizing and planning.
Non-verbal Learning Disabilities
Not all learning disabilities affect a child’s academic progress. For example, non-verbal learning disabilities do not affect a child’s progress in school, but can impact their social relationships. When someone has a non-verbal learning disability, they struggle with interpreting nonverbal cues used in conversation, such as body language or facial expression.
However, some strengths found in those with non-verbal learning disabilities includea well-developed vocabulary, and many times they are also strong readers.
Diagnosing Learning Disabilities
If you suspect that your child has a learning disability, the best way to diagnose it is through a neuropsychological assessment.
Learning disabilities are permanent and not something that is outgrown. So, it is crucial to receive a diagnosis and get the support and tools needed for them to succeed in school, work, and relationships.
If you are interested in scheduling a neuropsychological assessment to diagnose a learning disability, visit Abbey Neuropsychology Clinic to request an appointment.