The Five Most Common Learning Disabilities Seen in Schools Today
The National Joint Committee for Learning Disabilities defines the term “Learning disabilities” (LD) as a group of disorders evidenced by noticeable difficulties in the attainment of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical skills.” At any given time, there are upwards of eighty percent of today’s students who are experiencing some type of reading disability alone. Add in the other disabilities and you are talking about somewhere near six million children in the United States alone. Before we discuss what the most common learning disabilities are, we need to make clear what a learning disability is not.
Not an Intelligence Indicator
The majority of those with a learning disability are average or above average in intelligence. At one point in history, learning disabilities often went unnoticed because it was believed that only those who have an intellectual challenge were subject to such problems in learning. It is luckily understood at this point that even such greats as Walt Disney and Winston Churchill had learning difficulties in at least one area.
Not Result of Behavior Issue
Many children who experience behavior issues in the classroom also have learning difficulties. While the behavior issue does not cause the learning disability, the behavior can be caused by the disability. A child who is experiencing difficulty in math may feel unable to ask for help, especially when he or she is used to excelling in other academic areas. In addition, many teachers do not notice a difficulty in one area when it is in a child who is above-average in intelligence. Frustration and a lowered sense of self-esteem, coupled with possible comments about not working up to ability, can show itself in a child acting out.
Not Result of Poor Environment
Children who experience frequent moves or who live in poor circumstances such as neglect often show signs of a learning disability. In reality, the lack of being on par with the majority of students is a lack of consistency in learning environment. One school the child attends may be on one area of a subject and another two steps ahead. This puts a child who moves at a disadvantage by having them miss the information in those steps. This can appear as a learning disability when, in reality, the child may be perfectly capable of learning if the steps had been presented.
Not the Same as Intellectual or Physical Disorders
Children with intellectual issues may make it difficult for a child to learn but that is normally seen over the entire spectrum of learning, not just in one area. Having hearing or sight problems may make a child appear slow learning when it is simply a lack of being able to process the information because it is presented in a way that the child must see or hear the information.
Where Learning Goes Wrong
There are four main stages of learning. A learning disability can take place at any of these stages, interrupting the entire process and causing a failure to learn. It is necessary to find out in which stage the trouble lies in order to help work around the difficulty.
All learning starts with input. The input must be perceived and processed in the brain. If something prevents being able to recognize such things as shape, relation in position or size, then the brain can’t process this learning and start making sense of it.
During this stage, the student takes the information he has been given and relates it to what he already knows or puts it in order. You can tell when a problem is in this area when a child can’t seem to put events in order or memorize a sequence of words.
To fully learn, you have to be able to remember the information so that it can be retrieved at a later time. When the disability is in this area, a child may seem to know something today, but when questioned tomorrow or next week she has completely forgotten the information and needs to start over from the beginning.
This involves being able to take the information that has been processed and relate it back verbally or through action. This is often seen in areas where speech is concerned or when an activity involves motor skills such as typing a shoe. The child “knows” what is needed, but is unable to follow through with actions.
The Big Five
1. Dyslexia – reading disabilities.
This is one of the most common LDs, it is thought that approximately 5-17% of the population of the US suffers from dyslexia. It is considered a neurological condition not an intellectual one. Although most children with this problem are as bright as or brighter than the average child, the inability to read can have a devastatingly negative impact on their education. The main signs or symptoms of dyslexia are:
• Difficulties rhyming words and learning new words.
• Problems following directions that involve multiple steps.
• Problems making the links between letters and sounds.
• Confusing short words e.g. and, the, but.
• Reversing letter shapes and the letters in words.
• Problems learning the alphabet.
• Below average spelling.
2. Dyscalculia – disabilities in mathematics.
Children with this LD often have problems learning mathematical concepts, such as:
• Quantity, place value and time.
• Numerical organization.
They can also suffer difficulties memorizing mathematical facts or understanding the structure of mathematical problems on the page. Children may suffer from one or several of these issues; it can vary from child to child.
3. Dysgraphia – writing disabilities.
As the name suggests, this condition involves difficulties in handwriting, but these problems can extend beyond a sensory deficit and typically encompass a combination of difficulties. These can include:
• Illegible writing
• Difficulties or awkwardness holding a pencil.
• Lack of control of spacing and sizing of letters.
• Spelling problems.
• Grammatical and punctuation errors within sentences and poor paragraph organization.
By definition it is an impairment that can cause significant loss of academic achievement through an inability to construct compositions or extended written texts.
4. Dyspraxia – motor skills disabilities.
These are also called nonverbal LDs and they manifest in:
• Motor clumsiness.
• Poor skills governing visual-spatial relationships.
• Problems with social relationships.
• Lack of organizational skills.
• Disorders of speaking and listening.
These children may also exhibit strengths in other areas e.g. vocabulary, early reading, spelling skills and a good rote memory.
5. Dysphasia or aphasia – language learning disabilities.
This communication disability involves the understanding and production of spoken language. Signs of a language- based disability are:
• Problems with verbal language.
• Inability to retell a story or narrate a first-hand anecdote.
• Fluency of speech.
• Difficulties understanding the meanings of words and directions.
Learning disabilities can be worked around when they are pinpointed. Today there are many aids that can help in a classroom, giving these students a wonderful chance of learning at a level that in the past may have been impossible.