What They Are, What To Do
Your child is having a lot of trouble learning to read or doing simple arithmetic. He or she often loses books or homework, can't focus on lessons, and is frustrated because of school failure. What can you do?
The problem may be a learning disability, a disorder of the mental processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language or symbols. Learning disabilities typically cause problems with listening, thinking, speaking, reading, writing, spelling or doing basic numerical computation.
An estimated 5 to 10 percent of children have some type of learning disability. Each child will have a different combination and severity of problems; learning disabilities don't always fall into neat categories. (The term doesn't include children whose problems are cause by physical or mental handicaps.)
Having a disability doesn't mean your child isn't intelligent; noted people with learning disabilities include Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Whoopi Goldberg and Tom Cruise. However, your child will need specific teaching and learning strategies in order to achieve up to their potential.
Don't hesitate to look for help. An undiagnosed learning disability can mean years of frustration and failure for your child. Your first step is to contact your local public school, which is required, by state and federal law, to evaluate your child at no cost. If you think the evaluation was not done appropriately – for example, only one test was given – you can ask your local school system to pay for what's called an Independent Educational Evaluation by another institution.
Here's a list of common learning disorders and places to go for help:
Attention Deficit Disorder: ADD is a generic term for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The most common symptoms are extreme inattention or distractibility, poor impulse control and extreme hyperactivity. To separate ADD from normal childhood impulsiveness and lack of control, the symptoms must cause severe problems at home, school and/or social settings, and must appear before age 7 and continue for at least 6 months.
Autism: Symptoms include extreme withdrawal; inability to communicate; slow speech development or speech patterns such as repetition or "echoing" of phrases; repetitive body movements, e.g., rocking back and forth; and unusual sensitivity to sound, particularly loud noises. Boys are four times more likely than girls to have the disorder.
Dyslexia: Characterized by difficulty making the connection between letters and sounds. Children may read words backwards, transpose letters within words, confuse similar sounds and letters such as "p" and "b," or see letters spaced incorrectly – e.g., "spa cedinc orre ctly."