Many children have specific learning disabilities that go undiagnosed. These can cause misery, with children being accused of being ‘lazy’ or ‘careless’, rather than being recognised as having a specific disability.
What are Learning Disabilities
‘Learning Disabilities’ can refer to problems with reading, writing, mathematics, or written expression. Approximately 80% of children with learning disabilities have trouble reading; although this improves with age, they may remain slow readers. Children with specific learning difficulties perform substantially below the level expected for their age, schooling, and intellectual ability.
The Australian Learning Disability Association uses the following definition:
“’Learning Disabilities’ refers to a variety of disorders that affect the acquisition, retention, understanding, organization or use of verbal and/or non-verbal information. These disorders result from impairments in one or more psychological processes related to learning, in combination with at least average abilities essential for thinking and reasoning. Learning disabilities are specific not global impairments and as such are distinct from intellectual disabilities. “
Children with learning disabilities need teaching suited to their learning style, and may need modified work. They are likely to benefit from specialist tutoring to develop their skills in their areas of difficulty. The diagnosis of a specific learning disability entitles children to special accommodations, such as extra time for tests and exams.
What is Dyslexia?
Between 4 and 20 percent of school age children have dyslexia (a specific reading and spelling problem). Dyslexia is the most common form of learning disability, but is not the only one. Dyslexia or reading disability refers to difficulties with language and words – their use, significance, meaning, pronunciation, and spelling. There is a strong genetic component to dyslexia; it tends to run in families.
How do Learning Disabilities show?
Children with learning disabilities struggle at school – lag behind their peers in learning to read, have difficulty in spelling despite reading a lot, can’t do maths although they’re fine at other subjects, or generally under-perform despite seeming bright enough. For all of these children, or any child that isn’t learning as expected, a psycho-educational assessment is recommended.
What is a psycho-educational assessment?
A psychoeducational assessment is a specialist psychological assessment that includes assessment of general intellectual functioning and assessment of achievement in reading, writing, and spelling (or whatever areas are causing difficulty). This lengthy assessment (which takes about 2½ hours) gives scores that enable the child to be compared to others his or her age on a variety of measures. On the basis of this assessment, a specific learning disability can be diagnosed and recommendations can be made. These recommendations might include suggestions for further assessment (for example by an occupational therapist or speech pathologist), and will include suggestions for school and at home to improve the child’s learning.
Although learning disabilities last throughout life, with specialist assistance, suitable teaching, and accommodations to enable fair assessment, they do not cause major disadvantage. Many people with learning disabilities go on to study at university. People with learning disabilities can excel in their chosen area of work, and in all arenas of life.