By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.
A learning disability is a neurological disorder that affects the brain's ability to receive, process, store and respond to information. It affects people's ability to either interpret what they see and hear, or to link information from different parts of the brain. About 6 to 10 percent of the school-aged population in the United States suffers from at least one type of learning disability. Children with learning disabilities usually have a normal range of intelligence; however, they exhibit unexplained difficulty in acquiring basic academic skills.
Some of the symptoms of learning disabilities are: immature speech, difficulty in following and processing instructions or directions, not being able to achieve normal academic standards, inability to transfer words from oral to written form, short attention span, and difficulty remembering names for persons, places, or things. Unlike popular belief, learning disabilities are not due to environmental disadvantage, emotional disturbance or mental retardation.
Early identification is vital in helping a child to succeed academically, as well as socially. If you are concerned that your child has a learning disability, find out as much information as possible about your child's social, academic and emotional behavior from teachers, daycare staff, professionals and others who are in contact with the child. A professional can diagnose learning disabilities using standardized tests that compare the child's level of ability to what is considered normal development for a person of that age and intelligence.
Learning disabilities are not diseases and hence they cannot be cured. However, that doesn't have to stop a person from achieving goals. Most importantly, do not deny the possibility that your child might be suffering from any learning disorder. Now with special education and special materials, learning disabled children can be helped early. A professional can help you determine if your child needs services such as special educational services or speech-language therapy. Sometimes family psychotherapy is also recommended. Medication may be prescribed for hyperactivity or distractibility. It is important to strengthen the child's self-confidence, which is so vital for healthy development. Parents must also help other family members better understand and cope with the realities of living with a child with learning disabilities.
Here are some pointers for parents with children having learning disabilities:
- Listen to your children and make sure that you really understand the message they are trying to convey.
- Reward them with praises for their little achievements.
- Accept them for what they are and for their human potential for growth and development. Be realistic in your expectations and demands.
- Do not consider them extra-special. Don't give in to their every demand and discipline them appropriately when they are misbehaving.
- Don't get obsessed with school grades and nag them about it. It is important that they progress at their own rates and be rewarded for doing so.
- Help them to develop self-esteem and social skills.
- Look for and encourage their strengths, interests, and abilities.
Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center, http://www.startingadaycarecenter.com.