A Specific Learning Disability

A Specific Learning Disability

Young people who suffer from a Specific Learning Disability show academic problems and difficulties learning. They may also show  behavioral and emotional concerns. Behavioral and emotional concerns can occur as a consequence of the learning stress, anxiety and frustration that is often associated with a learning disability in children.  

Signs of a Specific Learning Dosability

Use the following checklists to help you explore whether your child exhibits the warning signs that might signal a Specific Learning Disability.

Signs of a Specific Learning Disability in Pre-School or Kindergarten Children

Does the child experience problems with the following?

  • Learning the alphabet
  • Recognizing letters
  • Rhyming Words
  • Remembering the association between letters and their sounds
  • Counting and recognizing numbers
  • Fine motor skills and/or using pencils, crayons and scissors
  • Learning the names of colors
  • Being understood by others
  • Developing age appropriate language skills.
  • Delayed language development (problems with articulation or pronunciation, first words, speaking in sentences)

Signs of a Specific Learning Disability in Elementary School Children

Does the child exhibit problems with the following?

  • Listening to class discussions and following instructions
  • Remembering routines
  • Fine motor activities (holding a pencil, printing or handwriting).
  • Understanding lessons and new concepts
  • Remembering lessons and new information
  • Learning new information and skills
  • With organization (e.g. keeping notes organized and neat)
  • With task completion and remembering and meeting deadlines
  • Drawing or copying shapes.
  • Learning new vocabulary.
  • Speaking in full sentences.
  • Remembering and retelling information from stories
  • Paying attention and concentrating on school work
  • Expressing thoughts orally or in writing
  • Succeeding in one or more subject areas (reading, writing, math or spelling).
  • Understanding conversation and questions

What Is A Specific Learning Disability?

Children who struggle to learn and keep up with their peers at school may have a specific learning disability. Despite average thinking and reasoning skills the learning disabled child performs poorly in one or more academic areas and well below expectations based on the child’s age, educational and intellectual functioning levels.  A Specific Learning Disability is characterized by specific weaknesses in one or more of the basic neuro-psychological processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language. 

The term does not include children who experience learning problems as a result of visual, hearing or motor handicaps, or developmental delays or emotional disturbance. Nor does it apply to children who experience learning problems that are primarily the result of environmental or economic disadvantage.

Neuropsychological Weaknesses in Learning Disabled Children?

Some young people who have been diagnosed with a Specific Learning Disability exhibit auditory processing deficits. This includes problems discriminating, sequencing and comprehending sounds. These young people find it hard to assign meaning to sounds and remember the association between the sound and its letter. Processing and remembering auditory or verbal information, including lesson content and concepts, instructions or letters and numbers and words is also often difficult.

Other young people with a specific learning disability may exhibit visual processing difficulties. These children respond more slowly to visual material and experience problems remembering, organizing and understanding visual information.

In addition, learning disabled children often have memory problems. They recall fewer items from lists of letters, words, nonsense syllables, sentences, digits and objects, whether they view this information or hear it. They may also have difficulty remembering verbal narrative material such as the content and/or details of stories that are read to them. They may have difficulty, as well, remembering visual material, such as visual spatial locations, faces and visual-abstract material.

Learning disabled children may also show executive function deficits, including failure to consider and use appropriate strategies to complete tasks and to monitor how well they are doing.

Language skills can also be weak. Language based learning weaknesses compromise learning in all academic skill areas, including spelling, writing, reading and math. Language is also tied to thinking and information processing.

Language based learning deficits include problems with:

  • Phonology or the sounds of language and rules for combining them.
  • Articulation or production of speech sounds.
  • Morphology or formation of words.
  • Syntax or the formation of words into phrases or sentences.
  • Semantics or meaning in language.
  • Pragmatics or the use of language in social contexts.

Children with language based learning disabilities experience problems with receptive language, or understanding what is said to them. Expressive language weaknesses are often evident.  Children with expressive language problems experience difficulties verbally expressing, organizing and retrieving  their ideas, thoughts and needs.

How Can You Help?

Dr. O'Connor offers comprehensive  Psychological Assessments  and School Neuropsychological Evaluations to explore whether or not a child meets the criteria for a Specific Learning Disability, and if so what kind of evidence based strategies can help.

Understanding the Problem is the Key to Solving It." A Psychological Assessment or School Neuropsychological Evaluation can increase your understanding of a child's learning problems and help you get "to the root" of the problem and find evidence based interventions to address it. 

Find out where things are going well and where you might need to intervene to help?