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  • Jaclyn Kotora

Learning Disabilities And Disorders: the signs, symptoms, resources, and recommendations

By: Jaclyn Kotora, Contributing Writer

Edited by: Olivia Storti, Editor; Elias Azizi, Editor in Chief

Learning disabilities (LD) are relatively common, with as many as one out of every five people in the U.S. having a learning disability. This disability affects how people receive and process information, and may prevent someone from effectively learning and using a skill, like reading, writing, math, speech, listening, following directions, and other areas as well. However, a learning disability is not a reflection of a person’s intelligence or motivation level. People with learning disabilities just process information differently as a result of genetic and/or neurobiological factors.

Learning disabilities can look different for each individual, with a wide range of signs and symptoms that may be present. Since there is no singular profile to learning disabilities, they can be hard to identify at times. However, there are certain warnings and consistent behaviors that might signify a potential disability. One sign could be if a child is really struggling with a certain set of skills like writing, reading, spelling, or mathematics. It is important to note that while many kids struggle in school, it could be a sign of a learning disability if the skills are not improving over a period of time, no matter how hard the individual tries. Additionally, as Gina Kemp, M.A., Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. of HelpGuide explain, “​​Paying attention to normal developmental milestones for toddlers and preschoolers is very important. Early detection of developmental differences may be an early signal of a learning disability, and problems that are spotted early can be easier to correct.” Learning disabilities are the general term for more specific disabilities like dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, Auditory Processing Disorder, and Visual Processing Disorder. Each one of these disabilities have various signs and symptoms. However, some general signs of learning disabilities can be:

  • Difficulty understanding and following directions

  • Lack of basic coordination

  • Resistant/ acting out when doing academic or school-related activities

  • Difficulty remembering what someone just told them

  • Trouble pronouncing or finding the right word

  • Makes consistent/frequent errors

  • Slow to learn new skills

  • Difficulty distinguishing left from right

Learning disabilities can progressively become worse if not addressed, so identifying the signs and intervening as early as possible is essential. The Mayo Clinic states, “A child who doesn't learn to add in elementary school won't be able to tackle algebra in high school. Children who have learning disorders can also experience performance anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, chronic fatigue, or loss of motivation. Some children might act out to distract attention from their challenges at school.” To prevent later complications, if one observes signs of a learning disability, it is important to have the child evaluated by a qualified professional. While the process of getting clear answers and diagnosis may take a lot of time and effort, try to remain patient in the meantime and not worry as much about the label of the disability and instead, work on addressing the symptoms to best support the child in the most effective way.

Learning disabilities can last a person’s whole life; however, with help, they often improve and become less obvious. To best support children with learning disabilities, learn as much as you can about LDs and make sure that the learning setting accommodates the child’s needs and strengths. Also, nurture their talents, and give the child opportunities to pursue strengths and passions that can be developed and transitioned into other areas of their life. Paying attention to your child’s mental health is also key. As described by WebMD, “Learning disabilities can be bad for a child's self-esteem. Keep an eye out for symptoms of depression, such as moodiness, changes in sleep or appetite, or loss of interest in their usual activities.” The challenges of having a learning disability can degrade one’s self-esteem and lead to isolation and other behavioral problems. By establishing a strong support system, one can help a person with a disability work through those challenges and learn beneficial coping strategies that will allow them succeed in life.

Despite the stigma often surrounding people with learning disabilities, it is important to note that individuals with learning disabilities can be just as intelligent as anyone else and can still have a very successful, fulfilled life. Tailoring to their unique learning styles, showing support and understanding, and encouraging growth can help people with learning disabilities overcome their learning challenges and accomplish their goals in and out of school.


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