What Is A Learning Disability?
People with learning disabilities have average to superior intelligence. Many are gifted in math, science, fine arts, journalism, and other creative fields. A list of such people would include Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill and many others who have changed the course of our world. However, their tremendous strengths are offset by noticeable weaknesses - an inability to read or write, memory problems, and difficulty understanding what is heard or seen. These difficulties stem, not from a physical problem with the eyes or ears, but rather from the basic neurological functioning of the brain. Every human brain is created with a unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses. We each have certain areas that make sense to us easily as well as areas of difficulty that require outside explanation and extra effort to understand. A learning disability is an area of weakness or inefficiency in brain function that significantly hinders our ability to learn or to function in life. It is a pattern of neurological dysfunction in the brain that causes a person to have difficulty correctly receiving information coming into the brain (perception), correctly processing that information once it is received (cognition/thinking), or satisfactorily responding to the information once it has been processed (written and verbal expression, visual-motor coordination, memory, etc). Students with learning disabilities experience an imbalance in their own ability levels. They are very good at some things, very poor at others and feel the tension between what they can and cannot do. Frustration is a hallmark of a student with learning disabilities. Typically such students will either be failing in one or more academic areas or be expending excessive amounts of energy to succeed. Also, they are also highly inconsistent, able to do a task one day and unable the next..
What Causes A Learning Disability?
Some learning disabilities appear to be passed down from generation to generation. Occasionally certain medical conditions such as neurological illnesses, or chronic childhood ear infections may also alter the neurological development or structure of the brain as well, creating a learning disability. Environmental factors such as cultural deprivation or parenting and teaching styles may heighten the impact of a neurological deficit, but they are not the cause.
What Are Some Typical Learning Disabilities?
Although learning deficits are as individual as thumbprints, most fall into basic categories such as those listed below:
Visual /Auditory Perception Visual /Auditory Memory Visual /Auditory Sequencing
Visual-Motor Coordination Spatial Relations (Sense of space) Abstract / Logical Thinking
Sense of Time Math Computation & Application Written expression
Handwriting Spelling Reading (decoding/comprehension)
How Does A Learning Disability Affect Life?
A learning disability involves the foundational perceptual and thinking skills that allow us to operate in life. Thus, just as a sore or injured muscle will cause difficulty wherever that muscle is required for physical movement, so a learning disability will affect a person's life wherever that skill is required. For example, a person who has difficulty keeping things in a sequence may have trouble keeping words and letters in order during reading, spelling, and writing, keeping numbers in order in math, keeping track of a class schedule, completing long-range assignments such as a term paper and following directions. A memory deficit can cause problems with taking notes in class, remembering homework assignments, spelling or vocabulary, recalling information studied for tests, remembering basic math facts, phone numbers, addresses, locker combinations, people's names, appointments, etc.
How Is A Learning Disability Diagnosed?
A psycho-educational battery of formal and informal tests are used to determine patterns of strength and weakness as compared to intellectual ability.
How Can Students With Learning Disabilities Be Helped?
There are two basic approaches to dealing with learning disabilities.. The first and most common is compensation - helping students work around their deficit areas by utilizing their strengths. In an academic setting, this usually takes the form of tutoring and classroom modifications such as untimed tests and reduced workload. Compensation allows students to succeed with outside help, but leaves them limited in what they can do on their own. The second approach is direct intervention - helping students strengthen their areas of deficit so they are no longer handicapped by them. Teaching students HOW to learn allows students the eventual freedom of succeeding on their own as independent learners. Both approaches are generally necessary in dealing effectively with a learning disability. Compensation allows students to succeed academically until the necessary skills are developed for independence. Direct intervention and the resulting competence and confidence allow students to gain the skills needed to become independent learners for a lifetime. NILD Educational Therapy is a direct, language based intervention for students with learning difficulties similar to occupational and speech therapies.