One of the common things parents stress about is when their children face learning difficulties at school. Difficulties in reading, writing, calculating or other simple learning skills could be signs of a child’s learning disabilities.
Learning disabilities are not always obvious, but they can interfere with your child’s academic performance and general classroom conduct. It can also affect a child’s mastery of higher-level skills such as abstract reasoning, attention span and memory.
Children with learning disabilities are often labelled as troublemakers who disrupts lessons, or perceived as students who are disinterested in learning. They can often feel deeply misunderstood by others. With such labels, they may also face other issues such as low self-esteem and other mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
As a parent, the good news is you can always familiarise yourself with the various types of learning disabilities your child may encounter, and identify them early on to prevent them from getting worse.
In this article, let’s examine a few common types of learning disabilities in children.
Dyslexia is the most common type of learning disability. It is sometimes also referred to as a reading disorder or a language-based disability. A child with dyslexia may find it hard understand words, remember sounds or read aloud. Other signs of dyslexia include slow reading, speech delays, poor vocabulary skills, difficulty relating to sounds or expression of thoughts.
What to do?
The first thing to do is to get a proper diagnosis from professional. There are professional trainings and programs available that can help to improve your child’s reading abilities. These programs typically impart comprehension strategies to help your child make sense of what they are reading.
Dyscalculia is commonly diagnosed in children with difficulty in math. Children with dyscalculia struggle to solve mathematical problems and understand basic math concepts such as time, money, measurements, fractions, percentages etc.
What to do?
While there is no cure for dyscalculia, there are strategies you could adopt to help your children overcome the difficulties. Try to make their learning environment as comfortable as possible. You can leverage on sensory perception such as sight, touch, and movement to teach mathematical concepts. This could look like using music to teach certain math steps, or letting them use their fingers when they count.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often first diagnosed in childhood and can last throughout adulthood. It is one of the most common neurodevelopment disorders. Children with this disorder are often make careless mistakes, have troubles paying attention, completing schoolwork and difficulties getting along with others. They can also be sometimes overly active and seen talking too much.
What to do?
If you suspect that your child has ADHD, the first thing to do is to seek consultation. In most cases, ADHD is best treated with a combination of medication, counselling and behavioural therapy. A good treatment plan will take into consideration your child’s developmental needs and frequency of follow-ups. Other ways to support your child is to impart healthy eating habits and manage their screen time and device usage. Too much screen time from TVs, smartphones and other electronics can worsen the symptoms of ADHD.
Dysgraphic is a writing disorder. Children with this disorder may have troubles writing, omitting words in sentences, forming words or even holding a pencil or pen. Sometimes, children with dysgraphia may seem more tensed up than usual while performing a writing task. It’s estimated that 5 to 20 percent of all children have some type of writing deficit like dysgraphia .
What to do?
Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for Dysgraphia. However, problems associated with writing and fine motor skills can be improved. For example, you can allow the student to take extra time on tests, provide worksheets or reduce the length of written assignments. If your children have problems with holding a pen, you may want to explore hand-writing training or other options such as typing.
If you are concerned that your child may have certain learning disabilities, you should discuss it with your child’s teacher and seek professional advice immediately. A timely diagnosis and intervention can make all the difference. Studies also show that the brain grows most rapidly during the first few years of life . This makes it important to address the disorder at an early stage, to avoid more difficulties in their later years. Children who are accurately identified at an early stage will be able to receive appropriate treatment before beginning formal education. This would help to close the developmental and learning gaps between them and their peers.
 Reynolds, C. (2007). Encyclopedia of special education: A reference for the education of children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities and other exceptional individuals (3rd ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
 Tierney, A. L., & Nelson, C. A., 3rd (2009). Brain Development and the Role of Experience in the Early Years. Zero to three, 30(2), 9–13.
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