learning disabilities

Everything Parents Need to Know About Learning Disabilities

Childhood is a prime stage of life that is full of learning. Kids learn about many subjects during this stage, and some subjects may come easier than others. Also, kids learn at different rates when compared to other kids. But what if your child is consistently falling behind their peers when it comes to learning about a certain subject? Your child may have a learning disability.

What is a learning disability?

The term learning disability can refer to a range of learning problems. They are related to how a child’s brain acquires, uses, stores and sends out information. Learning disabilities are very common, and as many as 15 in every 100 kids have one.

Learning disabilities can have a variety of causes. Often, an affected child has a parent or another family member who has it too. Certain childhood illnesses or injuries can increase the risk. Similarly, prematurity and having low weight at birth make learning disabilities more likely.

What is affected in learning disabilities?

The following skills are affected by learning disabilities. Kids may have a learning disability in one or more areas

Math (Dyscalculia)

Kids with a math learning disability (also called dyscalculia) may have trouble with:

  • Learning or drawing shapes
  • Math concepts such as the value of number, quantities and order
  • Understanding measuring, time and money
  • Learning fractions, percentages, algebra and geometry

Writing (Dysgraphia)

Kids with a writing learning disability (also called dysgraphia) may have trouble with:

  • Using a pencil (or pen)
  • Remembering how to form letters
  • Copying shapes or drawing lines
  • Organizing thoughts to write them in paper
  • Spelling and punctuation rules

Reading (Dyslexia)

Kids with a reading learning disability (also called dyslexia) may have trouble with:

  • Learning the names of letters and how they sound
  • Understanding that word is made up of sounds
  • Understanding that letters make the sounds that make up words
  • Pronouncing the sounds of words correct (and at the right speed)
  • Understanding what they read

Auditory Memory and Processing Disabilities

Kids with auditory memory and processing disabilities may have trouble with:

  • Remembering facts they heard, even though they hear normally.
  • Processing phrases they hear when the language is complex, or the sentence is too long
  • Understanding phrases that are spoken rapidly
  • Learning when other sounds are present, such as the hum of a fan

Other causes of learning problems

This is not be confused with other problems that may cause trouble in those same areas. A kid is not considered to have a learning disability if the problem identified is due to another cause such as:

  • Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Intellectual disability (previously called mental retardations)
  • Lack of instruction (not being taught the skill)
  • Problems with hearing, vision or motor skills

However, a kid can have one of these previously listed problems and have a learning disability. Many kids have multiple learning disabilities.

How to tell if a child has a learning disability

Learning disabilities are often not easy to identify. Here are some signs you can watch for, according to age. If you suspect your kid may have a learning disability after reading this, talk to their pediatrician for help.


  • Language development is delayed
    • Example: by 2 ½ years, kids should be able to talk in phrases
  • Problems with speech:
    • By age 3 years, kids should speak well enough for adults to understand most of what they say.
  • Having a hard time learning numbers, letters, shapes, and colors
  • Trouble to rhyme words
  • Problems with movements coordination
  • Attention span is short:
    • Between ages 3 to 5 years, kids should be able to sit still and listen to a short store, and as they grow older, their attention span is expected to be longer.

School-age children and teens

  • Trouble following directions
  • Problems getting organized and staying organized, both at home and in school
  • Have a hard time understanding verbal directions
  • Find it difficult to learn facts and remember information
  • Problems in reading, spelling, or sounding out words
  • Difficulty in writing clearly (bad handwriting)
  • Problems with math calculations and with word problems
  • Problems with explaining information clearly with speech or in writing

How to help a child with a learning disability

First of all, know that there is no magic bullet cure for learning disabilities. However, there are many things we can do to help kids overcome their learning disabilities so that they can be successful. Even so, beware of sneaky people of want to sell you a magic-bullet supplement to “cure” the problem. Even though many alternative approaches may not do harm, by themselves, they are not substitutes for well-studied methods to help with learning disabilities.

If you are concerned your child may have a learning disability, their teacher or doctor can guide you to local education specialists who can perform screening or evaluation tests to see if there is a problem. Your child’s doctor may also want to test hearing and vision to see if that may be contributing to the problems seen in learning. Other professionals who can help are psychologists and private education specialists.

Most kids who have learning disabilities can reach their goals by working on different ways of learning. Special resources may be available in your area, such as specialized teaching, non-timed tests, and changes made in the traditional classroom arrangement. If a problem in learning is identified, kids can get an Individualized Education Program that is reviewed regularly to make sure that they are getting exactly the help they need to help them learn.

How to help your child at home

Additional things you can do at home to help your child:

  • Positive parenting: focus on their strengths. All children have special talents, but sometimes a problem can feel overwhelming. Be sure to call attention to those awesome skills they are good at by praising them when they do well in those other areas.
  • Foster social and emotional skills: with all the challenges that learning disabilities bring, a kids psyche can be affected. You may notice them becoming a bit sad, angry or even withdrawn. Always provide love and acknowledgment that you understand their frustration because their brain learns in a different way. Also, promote activities that will foster friendship and fun, such as clubs and teams.
  • Positively plan the future: Remember! Learning disabilities are not related to how smart kids are! Many people with learning disabilities are super bright and grow up to be very successful in their life. Do not let a learning disorder make you worry hopelessly about the future. Encourage planning for their adulthood by exploring their interests and strengths when making education and career choices.

Learn more about learning disabilities

Here are so resources where you can learn more about learning disabilities and parent resources.

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