Learning disabilities and attention disorders are not easily defined because the terms cover a broad range of learning and attention problems. A child diagnosed with a learning or attention problem will often have difficulty with reading, writing, math, and maintaining concentration at school and at home. Some children have difficulties with many of these tasks while other children may only struggle with one very specific problem, like reading. Although learning disabilities occur in very young children, the disorders are usually not recognized until the child reaches school age, when the demands of school increase and children are not able to keep up with the work they are expected to complete. And it’s important to recognize that learning problems have nothing to do with how smart a child is. Many children with learning disabilities display above average skills and abilities in many areas.
Children with learning disabilities exhibit a wide range of symptoms. These include difficulty with reading, mathematics, comprehension, writing, spoken language, and/or reasoning abilities. Hyperactivity, inattention and perceptual coordination may also be associated with learning disabilities but are not learning disabilities themselves. The primary characteristic of a learning disability is a significant difference between a child's achievement in some areas and his or her overall intelligence. Some of the problems exhibited by children with learning and attention disorders include; reversals in writing and reading, poor organizational skills, difficulty following instructions and remembering class assignments, slow in completing work, behavioral problems, difficulty with social situations, poor follow-through on tasks at school and at home, and trouble maintaining attention and focus.
Happily, there is treatment available for children with learning and attention disorders. If left untreated, the challenges learning disabilities create can make school a traumatic experience for a child. It can also have a serious impact on the way a child feels about their overall abilities and contribute to low self-esteem. Therefore, it is important to identify problems early and get appropriate assistance. Children with learning disabilities cannot simply try harder or pay closer attention on their own. They need help from a specialist trained to work with children who have been diagnosed with a learning or attention problem. The first step is finding out specifically what type of learning or attention problem a child is experiencing. The best way to accomplish that is to have a child evaluated.
Early identification of learning and attention disorders means a child gets the help they need sooner rather than later, and that is very important. The sooner learning difficulties are identified, the easier it is to intervene and remediate the problem.
Some of the professionals who work with learning disabled children include: learning specialists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, reading specialists and tutors. The basic approach in working with children who have learning and attention problems is to help them build on their strengths and improve on their weaknesses. In some instances, medication may be useful in helping a child enhance and maintain their attention and concentration. In some cases, it is helpful for a child to receive psychological services as well. Sometimes children need more help than individual specialists or tutors can offer. In those situations, special educational services within a regular school setting are required or perhaps placement at a school that serves only children with special learning and attention needs.
It is estimated that 15 million children, adolescents, and adults in the U.S. have learning disability. Currently, 2.9 million students (ages 6-21) are classified as having specific learning disabilities (SLD) and receive some kind of special education support. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, 6 ½ percent of students in public school receive special education due to a learning disability.
The majority of all individuals with learning disabilities have difficulties in the area of reading. Some of the most common types of learning disabilities aree: dyslexia (affects reading, writing, and spelling); dyscalculia (affects math skills); impaired executive functions (planning, organizing, and task follow through); fine/gross motor impairment; and information processing disorders (language development, reading, writing, and math).