Early signs: learning disability in a child 

Specific learning disability (SLD) is an umbrella term that can describe different types of learning issues

Published: 22nd August 2019 07:43 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd August 2019 07:43 AM   |  A+A-

BENGALURU : Specific learning disability (SLD) is a developmental disorder that affects a child’s ability to read, comprehend, write or use language, calculate, but the child will have normal intelligence and conventional schooling, adequate motivation and have intact hearing and visual capacity. Their brains just process information differently.

SLD is an umbrella term that can describe different types of learning issues. A child suffering from reading disability would be suffering from dyslexia, learning disability in writing is called dysgraphia and learning disability in mathematics is dyscalculia. Dyslexia is the most common learning disability, accounting for 80 per cent of all children diagnosed. It has been observed that this disorder is found common among boys than girls.  

These disabilities are associated with psychological co-morbidities like ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), major depression and disorders. Children with ADHD are usually labelled as dull, lazy, troublesome and so on, without knowing the actual reason behind it.

There are certain signs specific to learning disability. 

  • Inaccurate or slow and effortful reading or writing
  • Poor written expression that lacks clarity
  • Difficulty in remembering number or facts and inaccurate mathematical reasoning
  • Confused with similar letters, specifically with letter ‘b’.
  • Difficulty in following and retaining visual sequences
  • Distracted  reading; skipping and jumping over words
  • Missing of words, phrases and sentences

Slow recognition of words
A conclusive diagnosis of SLD cannot be made until the child is in the third grade, or about 7-8 years old, as some children are ‘normal late developers’ and they outgrow their learning problems, unlike SLD, which is a life-long disorder.A multidisciplinary team comprising paediatrician, counsellor, clinical psychologist, psychiatrist and special educator are required to diagnose SLD.

How to detect the disorder earlyEvery paediatrician can facilitate early detection of SLD by enquiring about the child’s school performance and also by guiding parents for getting their child’s psycho-educational assessment done. Teachers can play a pivotal role in suspecting this condition early. Prevention of SLD involves early identification for language development, multisensory teaching and individualised education plan. Parents being the greatest advocates can bring about major changes in processes.

The author is consultant pediatrician and neonatologist, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital

Myth regarding SLD

Myth: Smart students don’t have specific learning disabilities.
Fact: Specific learning disabilities and IQ are not connected. There are many successful and brilliant students who have struggled with reading, writing, or solving math problems and have done well in other fields.

Myth: Specific learning disabilities are rare.
Fact: It has been estimated that approximately 5-15% of school-aged children have a learning disabilities.

Myth: If a child is struggling in school, that implies he or she probably has a specific 
learning disability.
Fact: The only way to find out whether your child has a specific learning disability is by going through a full educational evaluation. You can request this testing through your public school, or through a private evaluator.

Myth: Specific learning disabilities are a result of a poor diet or watching too much TV.
Fact: Specific learning disabilities are brain-based disorders, and are not caused by external factors such as diet or activity.

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