Learning Disabilities in Children: What Parents Should Pay Attention To

Learning disabilities in children

Many parents have concerns about learning disabilities in children. Perhaps next to food allergies, most parents are next concerned about issues that might impact their child’s academic development. In recent years, different learning disabilities have gained wider attention and study. This wider attention has proven helpful for getting more resources to help children with learning disabilities.

The growing attention is warranted as learning disabilities impact a significant percentage of children. Still, there is some debate amongst researchers as to how prevalent learning disabilities in children are with estimates anywhere from 5% to 20%. Nonetheless, most all researchers and teachers understand the need for more effective resources to help children.

This reality should give all parents hope. No matter whether or not your child does have a learning disability, you can have confidence that everyone from your child’s pediatrician to their teacher wants to provide them with resources to succeed.

For parents at home, especially of younger children, it’s helpful to know what types of learning disabilities exist and what to look for. In this article, we cover some of the most common learning disabilities in children. We then talk through some potential factors that may cause learning disabilities to develop. Hopefully, this post can provide a useful resource for parents to learn more about learning disabilities that might impact their child.

Most Common Learning Disabilities in Children

In talking about learning disabilities in children, many parents want to start with understanding what learning disabilities to look out for. While many learning disabilities exist, in general, a few conditions stand out prominently as ones most likely to impact children. Let’s talk through the five most common forms of learning disabilities in children.

  1. ADHD

Most everyone has heard something about ADHD. After all, in recent years, the number of diagnoses of ADHD has skyrocketed among young children. As our culture as a whole becomes more unsettled, distracted, and constantly moving, the number of cases of ADHD has increased as well.

While much more is known about ADHD now then a decade or two ago, still many people don’t understand all the implications of ADHD. For instance, most people still do not realize that ADHD occurs as one of the most common learning disabilities in children. Even more, most people do not even understand it as a learning disability at all.

ADHD, though, can be viewed as a different wiring of a child’s brain. This different wiring makes it difficult many times for children to process information in the ways that many expect. Children with ADHD struggle often with focusing and processing new information. They also typically have issues with memorization and executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills impact things like how we pay attention and how we organize thoughts. All of these symptoms can negatively impact how a child learns at home and at school. As a result, the growth in ADHD has helped to make ADHD one of the most common learning disabilities in children today.

  1. Dyscalculia

A second condition that appears as one of the most common learning disabilities in children is dyscalculia. Amongst learning disabilities, dyscalculia is perhaps one of the least studied and understood. In many ways, though, it has many similarities to dyslexia, which has been studied extensively. For instance, dyslexia involves a child having difficulty reading or comprehending letters. Dyscalculia, on the other hand, involves a child having difficulty recognizing or comprehending numbers.

In math, you need to know how to read and comprehend equations. You have to recognize formulas and what they ask you to perform. In children with dyscalculia, they have specific trouble approaching math questions and calculations. For example, they might struggle to remember math formulas or facts. They might also understand math concepts but struggle with knowing when to apply them correctly.

Parents might notice different signs of dyscalculia at different ages. For instance, in preschool, a child with dyscalculia might have difficulty with counting numbers sequentially. They might also fail to notice mathematical patterns. In grade school, a child with dyscalculia will often fall behind their peers in handling basic math equations such as simple addition and subtraction. In later years, they might struggle to translate math concepts to real life applications such as handling money or with measuring things such as in recipes.

If you notice one or more of these issues in your child, you might want to look further into whether dyscalculia might be to blame. Talk with your pediatrician about what symptoms you see. For more symptoms to look out for, check out other symptoms of dyscalculia found in this article.

  1. Dyslexia

Along with ADHD, most parents probably recognize and know something about dyslexia. Among learning disabilities in children, dyslexia is the most common impacting an estimated 5 to 10% of the population. As we just discussed, while dyscalculia specifically involved numbers, dyslexia deals with how a child reads and interprets letters.

In general, children with dyslexia have trouble with reading comprehension and also with spelling. They often struggle to read words or phrases and can have issues with grasping or remembering concepts of what they read themselves. Generally, they don’t have any issues with comprehension when others read to them. The problems just arise in how they personally read and interact with letters.

Many people think of dyslexia as seeing letters incorrectly and therefore possibly having a basis in a child’s vision. In reality, though, not all children with dyslexia see letters or words differently. Instead, all children with dyslexia have trouble with interpreting and understanding words and passages that they try to read. Specifically then, while some children with dyslexia might see or write letters or words backwards, the larger issue is the interpretation of what they attempt to read.

Many times dyslexia can be identified in asking children to read aloud a passage or with asking simple comprehension question. If a child struggles with these types of tasks, dyslexia might be an underlying factor. For a helpful list of potential signs of dyslexia in children, refer to the list in this article.

  1. Processing Deficits

Another one of the most common learning disabilities in children is processing deficits. Processing deficits involve when a child has issues with processing inputs in their environment. The most common forms of processing deficits include auditory processing disorder and visual processing disorder.

With auditory processing disorder, a child has difficulty with organizing and analyzing the sounds they hear. This disorder doesn’t mean the child has a hearing problem. They typically hear fine. Instead, they have problems with understanding how to interpret the sounds they head. Oftentimes, signs of an auditory processing problem might include issues with following spoken directions or telling the difference between similar words.

On the other hand, visual processing disorder involves having problems with interpreting and understanding things a child sees. Again, as with auditory processing disorder, there is nothing physically wrong with how a child sees. Instead, the child has trouble with understanding the implications of what they see and matching the visual sights to actual concepts. A key indicator of visual processing disorder might include very poor hand-eye coordination.

  1. Dysgraphia

A final common learning disability in children is dysgraphia. While dyslexia involves difficulty reading and comprehending words, dysgraphia involves difficulty with writing. Many children with dysgraphia have messy or illegible handwriting. While this might seem at first to describe most children, children with dysgraphia struggle beyond the early learning stages of handwriting.

Since dysgraphia isn’t as well know as many other learning disabilities, many people might mistake signs of it for laziness or simply sloppiness in writing. For the child, though, the disability isn’t due to any lack of effort. Instead, the child’s attempts to write and recreate letters and shapes simply fails to match expectations.

If you think your child might have an issue with writing out thoughts and ideas and recreating accurate shapes, you might have a case of dysgraphia on hand. Children with this condition might dislike writing and drawing and might refuse to participate. Additionally, they might have trouble grasping spelling and spelling rules as well as difficulty writing out their thoughts. For additional symptoms of dysgraphia to look out for refer to the list in this article.

Causes of Learning Disabilities in Children

In thinking through learning disabilities in children, it’s helpful to consider possible causes. While researchers don’t know for certain what leads to learning disabilities, doctors have some ideas of potential factors. As research continues into possible sources, three factors predominately stand out. Let’s look closer at each of these possible causes that may influence learning disabilities.

  1. Genetic Factors

While genetics haven’t been shown conclusively to play a role in learning disabilities, some indications hint that genes might have an influence. Many children with learning disabilities usually have one or more family members who also have a similar disability. While a specific gene has yet to be identified as causing learning disabilities, the connection through generations establishes a strong indication that genes might have some kind of role.

Still, other researchers believe the generational connection might have more to do with how parents teach their children than it does with genes. The belief here is that learning disabilities might develop not due to hereditary influences but simply that children grow up learning in the same methods and ways as their parents. If their parents have deficiencies in their learning then their children will also.

  1. Environmental Factors

A second possible factor that might contribute to learning disabilities in children are different environmental factors in a young child’s life. For one, some believe early exposure to lead could negatively impact a child’s development. Lead poisoning can affect a child in a number of ways through their environment.

For instance, many times lead can enter a water source possibly through lead pipes and be consumed with drinking water. Additionally, lead used to be used extensively in building materials such as paint. Some of those materials could still exist in a child’s environment and lead could possibly enter the air they breathe.

In additional to lead, other environmental toxins could possibly impact a child’s early development and eventually how they learn. Furthermore, if a young child perhaps has poor nutrition or is malnourished in early life, these things can negatively impact their later development. While not firmly established, many researchers draw a connection between negative environmental impacts and later learning disabilities in some children.

  1. Brain Development Factors

Lastly, many researchers believe that learning disabilities in children might result from brain development factors. For children, normal healthy brain development is key for healthy development in many areas of life. When it comes to learning issues, some scientists believe that issues that slow brain development can create learning problems.

These brain development factors can include such things as issues before birth such as low oxygen in the womb or low birth weight or issues after birth such as suffering a head injury. Since all of these things interrupt normal development, they can also possibly lead to a child developing a learning disability, which prevents normal learning.

Diagnosing and Treating Learning Disabilities in Children

If parents notice signs of learning disabilities in children in their home, they need to next talk to a professional about diagnosis and treatment. The first step should be talking to your child’s pediatrician. Your child’s pediatrician can provide several resources to help you better understand potential disabilities and identify ways to address them. Your child’s pediatrician can also help you as the parent monitor and watch out for early indicators of issues. Beyond that they can help with getting your child assessed if needed. They can also provide crucial support throughout the whole process.

After your pediatrician, you next want to talk to your child’s teachers or instructors. While at one time many schools had little resources to help children with learning disabilities, most every school now has resources to turn to. While there is no cure for learning disabilities, for every disability there are resources and approaches for treatment that you can take to help address the issue. Most schools have access to these helpful resources. Additionally, they have programs that they can enroll your child in to help your child with advancing in their schoolwork.

With the help of your child’s pediatrician, teachers, and school administration, you should have no reason to fear your child falling too far beyond. The key for effective treatment of learning disabilities in children is identifying the issues early. With early identification, you can then get access to the resources you need. We hope that this article gives you some helpful information for moving towards both those objectives.