Monday, September 10th, 2012
True or false:
• Learning disabilities can be caused by too much screen time.
• Learning disabilities can be caused by a poor diet.
• Learning disabilities can be caused by childhood vaccinations.
• Learning disabilities are related to your IQ.
• Learning disabilities can be treated by corrective eyewear.
Answer: They are all false. However, in a just-released survey of nearly 2000 adults by the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), one quarter to one half of those surveyed believed the above are true. Clearly, Americans have a lot to learn about learning disabilities, which affect approximately 2.4 children in this country. A whole lot of well-known adults have them, including Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Cruise, Jay Leno, Liv Tyler, Anderson Cooper, Britney Spears, Orlando Bloom and Joss Stone, among others.
To help clear up some of the confusion, and make sure parents know the real signs of a learning disability, I asked Sheldon H. Horowitz, EdD, Director of LD resources and essential information at the NCLD, to answer some q’s.
At what age are learning disabilities typically diagnosed?
Learning disabilities are most often identified in children during the elementary or middle school years, but early warning signs can be identified as early as kindergarten. Because there is no single ‘typical’ LD profile, the kinds of struggles noticed by parents and educators and the ways that children react to their school frustrations will vary. Some withdraw socially, some act out; some worry about whether they are ‘stupid,’ others know that they are smart but don’t know how to get past their specific challenges in critical areas such as reading, writing, spelling, math and general organization. Complicating the process of recognizing LD is the fact that child development is a moving target, and that everyone can be expected to struggle with learning at some point in time for reasons that are completely “normal.”
For specific guidelines in determining the ages and stages of LD and how features of LD might present across different domains of development and learning, check out the LD.org website and the NCLD Interactive LD Checklist (available in both English and Spanish).
What are the most common learning disabilities?
The vast majority of individuals with LD struggle in the area of reading. Researchers estimate that as many as 80% or more of people with LD will have primary weaknesses in skills such as sounding out words, reading accurately and fluidly, understanding what is read, retaining information from reading, and in the closely connect areas of spelling and writing. Dyslexia is the clinical name most often associated with specific learning disabilities in reading, and dyscalculia is the name given for LD in math. Many people with LD also struggle with memory and with learning that is heavily dependent upon certain types of information processing. Read more about the different types of LD and about related information processing weakness and executive function challenges on the LD.org website.
What are typical causes of learning disabilities?
We don’t yet have the science to say what “causes” learning disabilities. We know that they are neurological (brain-based) disorders and that they often run in families. We know that they co-occur with disorders of attention (ADD and ADHD) in pretty high numbers (some clinicians say as high as 35% or higher) and that they are life long, changing in how they impact learning but never going away. (If someone tells you that people can outgrow their learning disability, don’t believe it!). LD may result from early neurological events during the prenatal period, from material malnutrition or from some other biological or medical cause. It is well documented that brains of people with LD can have some structural difference (which can be observed through sophistical neuro-imaging techniques) and functional difference (the machinery works fine, but the cognitive programs used to engage in thinking and learning are inefficient. Just remember: people with LD struggle to learn not because they are lazy and not because they have diminished capacity. They are smart, creative and competent thinkers who are “wired” for learning in unexpected ways.
What are the signs parents and even teachers might typically overlook?
One of the most telling signs of an underlying (and undiscoved) LD has to do with how a child feels about him or herself. Imagine what is like to wake up every day and have to look forward to hours of nonstop worry about whether you will be asked to read aloud in front of the class or asked to complete assignments that take so long that you will (once again) have to miss lunch, gym or a favorite elective. Self-doubt, anxiety about school performance and diminished excitement about learning and sharing with peers or even acting out can be important signs that merit a closer look at whether LD is at play. And in young children, look for signs that vocabulary and skills like rhyming are slow to develop or perhaps a pattern of behavioral around reading what is unexpected. In some children, early risk for LD might look like their enjoying being read to but resisting when offered opportunities to play with books and explore how they work. For a fun and easy way to learn more about the foundational skills needed to help a child prepare for reading instruction, visit the Get Ready to Read! web site, take the free online screening with your child and download dozens of free, fun activities (in English and Spanish) that will get your child started on the road to success in school.
What’s the good word about prognosis for a learning disability?
The good news is that LD is not a prescription for frustration and failure. Society is filled with stories of successful individuals—business leaders, actors, politicians, scientists, educators, people from all walks of life who understand the challenges their LD has placed before them and who, just like everyone else, have found ways to circumvent their weaknesses, tap their interests and celebrate their strengths. Discover these personal stories of young people and adults who are proof that people with LD can hope, learn and succeed.
Read more from Ellen:
• What’s it’s like to do a farm stay vacay
• 8 ways to make inclusion work for kids with special needs
• Why you shouldn’t pity my child with cerebral palsy
Photo of little girl reading via Shutterstock
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health, know if my child has a learning disability, Learning disability, signs of a learning disability | Categories:
Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Children With Special Needs, Disability, Down Syndrome, Must Read, SPD, Special Needs, Special Needs Parenting, To The Max
Thursday, June 7th, 2012
This guest post is from Lyn Pollard, a mother of two one-of-a-kind kids who learn and play differently. She writes, blogs, talks, and tweets about parent advocacy, literacy, and safe schools for children with learning differences, disabilities, and special needs on her blog at Different Doodles and @DiffyDoodles on Twitter. A trained journalist, former change management consultant, and serial entrepreneur (ChalkyDoodles.com), Lyn is working to create change and remove stigma for all kids with differences. Here, she shares
How would you answer if, say 10 years from now, your child with learning differences, autism or special needs asked you, “Mom, what exactly did you do to help me?”
Isn’t that what we all secretly dream of? For our children with special needs one day to not only fully benefit from the advocacy we undertake on their behalf, but to express a vested interest in the journey that we, as parents of one-of-a-kind kids, couldn’t (and wouldn’t) have taken any other way?
As the mother of two kids with differences (my daughter has dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD and my son has high-functioning autism and is gifted at Math) here the top 5 answers, that I hope will (someday) make my kids proud:
1) Understand your child’s differences and protect their rights: Advocacy 101 for parents of kids with differences & disabilities. Pretty much the moment we receive a diagnosis, parents dive into learning about their child’s unique condition, be it due to a developmental delay, congenital condition or the result of an injury.
This is an important, instinctual first step that immediately helps us know what we are facing and what to do next. This may include understanding not only your child’s condition, but how to work with your health care provider or insurance company to get your child the care and/or therapy that he needs.
The vital second step is to gain a basic understanding of federal and state laws that protect your child with differences. For example, one of the first things I did after receiving our daughter’s dyslexia diagnosis was to read the Texas Dyslexia Handbook, which describes in detail our state’s law regarding dyslexia treatment on all public school campuses.
Other laws to know: IDEA and 504. Parent-friendly resources Wrightslaw.com and LD.org are great at helping parents decipher the laws and get the facts.
2) Make your child’s school a Safe School for all kids: For kids to learn and grow, their school must be a place where they feel accepted, accommodated and most of all, safe. Did you know that kids with differences have a greater than 60 percent chance of being bullied on their school campus (according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities)? As parents, we should be involved with keeping schools safe for all kids by knowing our state’s bullying laws, and making sure they are being enforced on our campuses.
Does your state have an anti-bullying law? (To learn more about your state’s anti-bullying law visit Stop Bullying). Does your ISD promote and adhere to it? How does your campus enforce it? Is there info about it on your ISD’s website? If not, why not ask for it?
Other elements of safe schools include making sure children with emotional or mental health issues are given appropriate help and support. Also, ensuring that children with learning differences receive the appropriate special education and/or modifications and leaving stigma at the door are part of the equation.
3) Ensure everyone on your child’s campus understands and accepts people with differences: Talk to your counselor, principal or SLP (SLPs in my Texas ISD are usually the case-managers for children with Autism spectrum disorders who are protected under IDEA) about how students and teachers are being educated about learning differences and special needs in your school district and on your child’s campus.
Do you have a child with a recognizable disability, like Down Syndrome who shares a mainstream classroom with typical kids? Ask if you can read a book about your child’s differences to his class at the start of each school year, like the mom of a boy in my daughter’s class does each fall.
Take every little opportunity to teach the kids, school staff and administers you encounter on your child’s campus about diversity. Read books, sing songs, have conversations and continually focus on how people who seem somehow different are in fact unique, special and worthy—just like everyone else.
4) Encourage your community to promote acceptance and diversity: As I’m often reminding my son, “Observe.” Look around you, and listen, too. Do parents and other adults in your community use words of acceptance when they talk to or about others? Do they use the “R” word or racially derogatory language? Are they actively singling out kids from sports teams who are awkward or clumsy? Or are they inviting the child with autism or Down Syndrome to join their team (like my son’s coach has done the past 2 years)?
Align yourself with parents who embrace similar values, and encourage them to help you approach parents who are not modeling appropriate behavior on the field and in the community.
5) Don’t let your advocacy stop with your kids: You’ve probably picked up some great skills as a parent advocate for your child with differences. If you’re like me, you’ve learned to be both proactive and patient, persistent but professional.
Now put those skills to work beyond your own offspring. Reach out to parents in your community, start a support group (like the neighborhood group I started last fall, KDDs – Kids with Differences & Disabilities), attend IEP meetings together, approach your school administrators, local newspaper and state legislators. Ask for the changes that you want to see in your school and your community, and ask with a loud, educated, consistent voice.
Like our mothers used to say, “If you don’t ask, you won’t receive.” Parents of kids with differences have an amazing amount of power, and that power grows exponentially when like-minded parents join together for a cause that is not only worthy, but about which they are passionate to their very core – the education, health and safety of not just our kids, but all kids.
From my other blog:
• My child with special needs is not a burden to society
• A Bill of Rights For Parents Of Kids With Special Needs
• Top 20 reasons moms of kids with special needs ROCK
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