One of the largest sources of anxiety and concern for both parents and children in today’s world is school and related performance. Children are expected to know how to read and write, and perform simple mathematical operations even before they commence their elementary education. Moreover, competition among students for educational facilities and opportunities is continuously growing.
Often, anxiety heightens for parents whose child is falling behind their peers. When your child is not performing at an age appropriate level, you might find that you may blame him or her for being lazy, playful or unmotivated. It may also be easy to blame yourself, your spouse or the school for not putting in enough effort. However, various factors may be underlining your child’s inability to perform. Learning difficulties contribute largely to difficulties with performing at an age and grade appropriate level.
Learning disabilities are neurologically-based processing problems. Many children with learning difficulties have average or above average intelligence with no physical problems and yet struggle to keep up with others of the same age in learning and daily functioning. There often appears to be a gap between the individual’s potential and actual achievement. This is why learning disabilities are referred to as “hidden disabilities”: the person looks perfectly “normal” and seems to be a very bright and intelligent person, yet may be unable to demonstrate the skill level expected from someone of a similar age.
Experts suggest that learning disabilities are caused by genetics, problems during pregnancy and birth (e.g. low birth weight, prematurity), medical conditions and injuries to the brain after birth (e.g. head injuries, brain infections). While the causes are not clear, treatment options are available and have been proven to be effective.
Some common types of learning difficulties include:
- Reading Disability (Dyslexia)
- Math Disabilities (Dyscalculia)
- Developmental Coordination Disorder (Dyspraxia)
- Nonverbal Learning Difficulties
- Auditory and Visual Processing Disorder
Often, children with learning disabilities have another co-existing conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Giftedness, Language Impairments and/or are on the Autism Spectrum. For these reasons, it is important for these children to be assessed by a team of specialists with experience in helping children.
Diagnosis and Treatment
When your child has difficulty in learning, it is useful to have a clear idea of what is holding your child back. If you are concerned that your child is not coping and are uncertain of the causes, consider getting professional advice from a clinical or educational psychologist. Depending on the presenting issues, the psychologist may recommend a battery of assessment which will determine your child’s cognitive profile and assess for relevant problems, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Mood Disorders and Learning Disabilities, which are known to influence academic performance. Accurate identification of these challenges is imperative in identifying strategies and management plan to support your child in achieving his or her potential in life. The psychologist would then suggest a customized education plan to help your child overcome his or her difficulties. Our team of child development specialists also work closely with school teachers to suggest changes to the school environment.
What’s important to note is that learning disabilities do not go away. Children with learning difficulties usually do not just “grow out of it”. This life-long condition cannot be “cured” or “fixed” by medication. However, with appropriate support and intervention, people with learning disabilities can achieve success in school, at work, in relationships, and in the community. Early detection and accurate assessment when combined with effective interventions have been proven to help children with learning difficulties reach their fullest potential.