An Introduction to Specific Learning Disabilities
A general overview on SLDs what they are and how to think about that in the context of other kinds of disorders. Specific Learning Disabilities are in fact is a broad term of which there are many types of specific disorders. Specific learning disabilities by definition are disorders and basic psychological processes that involve understanding and using language, by that we mean the ability to receive-process-recall and then communicate that information.
Types of Specific Learning Disabilities
Dyslexia is the most common SLD-specific learning disability. Other types of learning disorders may include dysgraphia (writing), dyscalculia (math), dysnomia nominal aphasia (working memory) or dysphasia. Oftentimes, a school psychologist or an education therapist with a Master’s degree administers a Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP) to evaluate a student’s learning strengths and weaknesses. Then they write a summary report with professional recommendations. Recommendations are key because without them proper interventions cannot be developed, tied to standards, or measured for progress year to year.
Reading – Often referred to as Dyslexia. It’s not only reading words but understanding the meaning and includes speed and accuracy of the same with maturity as well.
Writing – Often referred to as Dysgraphia. It could be a number of different kinds of things associated with writing, to different people at different stages of learning disability or the lifetime. It’s not just how they hold the pen or how they write, it’s about how they organize, plan and edit their writing. That makes it could be anything that falls within that expressive written language domain.
Spelling – Also an area very much impacted by learning disabilities. They connected to the ones associated with reading and writing.
Math – A specific learning disability related to Math is often referred to as Dyscalculia. Dyscalculia involves not just counting but also the fluidity and flexibility how a person operates numbers. It could be measurements, estimating distances, calculating and understanding patterns and rules working with numbers. So it could be any number of things in learning disabilities.
Learning disabilities are also impacted by the ways that we process information. The way we listen, view things, organize new information as they come to us through our senses in any number of sensory processes.
Auditory or Visual Processing
Sensory – Motor
Auditory or Visual Processing
Very strong preferences to have information in a particular way. So they would have challenges in the auditory or visual processing area depending on how that information was presented. It would also cause difficulty in retrieving the information that they have heard. Remembering and processing and then getting information back and doing something with it, if they were taught in a way that wasn’t consistent with the way that they preferred to process information.
Example, there are children who prefer information verbally but have a terrible time if they were in a classroom where teachers just write on the board, not talking out so often.
Sensory – Motor
Children with dyspraxia often have those kinds of difficulties in sensory-motor integration. Examples are Motor control, eye-hand coordination; Manual dexterity is involved as well.
Social and Emotional
Students with specific learning disabilities are not necessarily those kinds of kids who have difficulties in the social domain. But because so many of them miscue language, they often will say something and mean something else. They won’t be able to find the right word for a situation. Often there are some nonverbal cues that they don’t pick up on so they don’t necessarily know when something is appropriate to say or to do. Those are the kinds of things that can be taught with maturity and practice to individuals with specific learning disabilities.
Social and Emotional – Self Confidence
Self-confidence is something that is critical. If you are fearful that you’re going to be called on to read, and reading is the one thing that you don’t do well, you are not going to look forward to sitting in that class. The teacher may call on you and your sense of confidence, may very well be diminished, as in the case of many children with learning disabilities.
Social and Emotional – Transitions
There are children with difficulties in transitions. Comfortable situations are where they learn the rules; they have teacher-student relationships; practice certain thing, and they know how to accomplish success. Often moving from them to a new situations are difficult for students with learning disabilities.
Once a parent becomes fully informed about their child’s specific learning disability a parent can shop for education providers, curriculum, and the best learning environment according to education relevancy and disability. Choices include special education services in public schools, private, and home education plans. Many Specific Learning Disabled students benefit from certified Wilson Reading System Tutors and assistive technology accommodations like voice to text, text to voice, screen readers, and recorders for playback.
The difference between Learning Difficulty and Learning Disability.
They are often used interchangeably. These refer to two different conditions which are having a subtle difference between them. At certain situations, the difference between the conditions can be too difficult to recognize.
Learning disability can be considered as a condition that emerges during the childhood of an individual having difficulty in understanding information, learning and communicating. A learning disability will affect the person’s daily life in coping independently with different situations. Learning difficulty is a problem that a child faces in learning. This creates a barrier between the child is a particular skill set. Making the child unable to learn it.
The fundamental difference between learning disability and learning difficulty is that while learning difficulty mostly affects the learning of the child within the school premises but the learning disabilities go beyond this in most of the cases. Learning disabilities can denote lower IQ level as well.
Raising Awareness on Specific Learning Disabilities
Geraldine Markel, PhD is an Educational Psychologist. Award-winning author of Actions Against Distractions: Managing Your Scattered, Disorganized and Forgetful Mind and Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction: Proven Strategies to Increase Productivity and Decrease Stress. Websites: www.managingyourmind.com and www.gerimarkel.com. She is the author of, Helping Adolescents with ADHD and Learning Disabilities and Finding Your Focus: Practical Strategies for the Everyday Challenges Facing Adults with ADD as well.
“I have served as a teacher, reading consultant, special educator, university faculty, and now an academic coach. Whether working with students, parents, teachers or community members, showing examples of a specific learning disability helps to bring awareness.
There are several groups who need to increase awareness about specific learning disability. Parents are the best observers of their children. They see the discrepancies between their child’s performance and potential. However, they lack the knowledge and skill to label the problems or put them in perspective. It is useful to show parents examples of age-appropriate Reading, writing or math assignments as compared to the work of their children.
Teachers need to explore the reasons for a child’s lack of progress in one area when the child seems to be average or above and unable to achieve. Too often, children who fail or under perform are labeled, lazy, crazy or dumb. They none of these, It is useful to show teachers videos or case students of students who have a specific learning disability.”
Specific Learning Disabilities and Learning Environment
Kids with a specific learning disability may require a different learning environment and on-going education interventions to breakthrough learning plateaus.
For students that have learning disabilities it will be a tough time learning things traditionally. Online resources can provide individualized help by using fun, short video lessons, interactive quizzes, educational games and apps to review necessary skills in any subject and grade level. Students can catch up with their classmates and stay engaged with topics that they might fall behind when covered in a traditional classroom.
- Students can use technology to find unique ways to learn that suit their individual learning style.
- Parents can use resources to reinforce ideas at home, give students quizzes, and practice concepts together.
- Teachers can use online lessons in the classroom or assign it as homework.
What are not Learning Disabilities?
The specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing or motor disabilities. Learning disabilities are not the result of poor vision or hearing. They are also not the same as children who have difficulties on the autistic spectrum. Also, they are not the same as intellectual disabilities (formerly known as mental retardation). They are not consistent with the emotional or psychological health issues and emotional disturbances.
Most importantly learning disabilities are not the result of a disadvantage. Example, cultural, environmental, economic difficulties are not the causes of learning disabilities.
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