Learning disorders are a reality that affects a significant percentage of children in school. Although these have always existed, it has not been until recently that they have begun to be known thanks to research in the fields of psychology, pedagogy, and education.
Learning disorders are among the main causes behind cases of poor performance and school failure. For this reason, the need to detect these situations early is being emphasized more and more, to offer students with special educational needs the interventions and resources they need to learn and achieve academic success. Below are some problems and their solutions by Park Learnings, an online learning platform for kids.
What are learning disorders?
Too often and for too long, students with these difficulties were branded as lazy, unintelligent, or just plain hopeless. Fortunately, the studies that have been carried out in recent years have made it possible to investigate this unknown area, allowing us to better understand the reason for its appearance. The truth is that learning disorders are nowadays considered neurodevelopmental disorders that are characterized by being unexpected, specific, and persistent.
Why have they been defined this way? Well, because those students with difficulties of this type show, in the first place, an IQ within normal limits. Therefore, these are students whom, in principle, one would not expect to observe learning problems, since they do not have cognitive disabilities or above-average abilities that require modes of teaching other than the standard ones.
In addition, learning disorders cannot be attributed to a lack of resources, stimulation, or inadequate instruction, since the student who fails usually has a favorable environment and, even with everything, he does not manage to learn adequately. These disorders are, as we have been saying, specific. This means that they do not generate a global difficulty when learning, but rather the problem is concentrated in a limited area, such as reading or calculation.
Persistence is the third defining characteristic of learning disorders, as they tend to persist over time. This does not mean that students are doomed to fail, but rather that they will need special support and strategies to be able to live with this difficulty throughout their lives. A clear example of this is dyslexia. Although this problem cannot be reversed, those who receive adequate and early educational intervention can successfully learn like others thanks to the application of strategies based on compensation.
It is common for learning disorders to be linked to poor academic results and school difficulties. However, the impact that this problem can have on a child goes much further, especially when he is not receiving the intervention that he needs. Learning problems cause behavior problems, mood swings (such as depression or anxiety), and major self-esteem issues.
Students who experience continuous failure to learn at school may feel inferior to others and form a negative self-concept of themselves. All this can make them assume that their situation is something stable over time, that it will not change and is out of their control. Also, some struggling students may face bullying, as they are teased by others for their trouble learning in some areas. An example of this may be exposure to laughter or teasing when a child with dyslexia reads in public.
Everything that we discuss here produces, ultimately, a profound demotivation toward learning. The school and institute become a place where frustration is continually experienced by not being able to achieve the same as others despite the effort, so there may be cases of school dropout once the mandatory years of education are exceeded. All this generates avoidable suffering in many boys and girls and causes many talents to be clouded by difficulties that have not been managed and attended to as they deserve.
To all that we expose, we must add the problems that schools encounter due to the lack of resources and means to support students with special educational needs. This is especially complicated in public schools, where teachers come up against an overwhelming demand and a responsibility that they cannot assume due, many times, to a lack of training, knowledge or material means.
Due to the enormous importance that this phenomenon has today in the educational system, in this article we are going to review the main types of difficulties that can be found in the classroom.
What kinds of learning disorders are there?
Next, we are going to review the different types of learning disorders and their respective characteristics.
Dyslexia is defined as a specific learning disorder in which the person has trouble reading. This is because he is unable to identify the sounds of speech or understand how they relate to letters and words. That is, there is a failure in the decoding process.
Those who suffer from dyslexia have normal intelligence and show adequate vision without difficulties. The problem would therefore be located in the brain areas responsible for processing language.
In cases of dyslexia, the prognosis is usually favorable when early specialized intervention is introduced, since, as we have already mentioned, it is a disorder that cannot be reversed. Therefore, it is important to buy time and act quickly to achieve the best results. Emotional support should not be neglected, as sometimes this difficulty can profoundly undermine the child’s psychological well-being.
Decades ago dyslexia was an unknown problem. Those who suffered from this difficulty went through their childhood with much suffering and frustration, without receiving adequate interventions with all that this implies. Therefore, there are still people who receive their diagnosis at late ages. However, although the idea is to have support from the beginning, professional support never ceases to be necessary, even if it is late.
Dyscalculia is a permanent difficulty in learning mathematics. People with this problem encountered many obstacles in learning or understanding number concepts and arithmetic principles.
This difficulty is less well known than others that we discuss in this article, although it is known that up to half of the students with dyscalculia also show deficits when learning to read or symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Dysgraphia is difficult to write. This can be explained by different causes. It can appear as a result of dyslexia, although it can also occur due to motor coordination problems or difficulties in interpreting space.
The manifestation of dysgraphia will be subtly different depending on the cause that justifies it. When this is a result of untreated dyslexia, the student will inappropriately write the words at the orthographic level or directly illegible. When the cause is a motor deficit or a visual problem, bad handwriting will be observed, but the spelling will be correct.
4. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental learning disorder that affects a significant percentage of children in classrooms. Like the other disorders that we have discussed, it is characterized by its persistence over time, although with appropriate interventions at home and at school it can be managed.
This disorder encompasses a set of symptoms related to difficulty maintaining attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. As with other learning disabilities, ADHD can lead to profound psychological problems beyond poor academic performance, such as low self-esteem, difficulty with social skills, or behavioral problems.
To make a diagnosis of ADHD, the child must be evaluated by professionals. Symptoms are generally considered to appear before the age of 12 years. These may be related to inattention, impulsivity, or both. Similarly, there may be cases of greater or lesser severity. Many adults who suffered from ADHD in childhood continue to exhibit some difficulties in adulthood. However, it has been observed that the symptoms tend to soften as age increases.
This disorder is more common in men than in women. In addition, the observed pattern usually varies according to sex, with impulsive symptoms predominating in men and inattention in them. Treatment does not reverse ADHD, although it is essential for managing symptoms, and preventing the appearance of the additional difficulties that we have mentioned. The earlier the intervention, the more likely it will be successful.
Although ADHD is a reality for many children, the truth is that some experts have raised the possibility that overdiagnosis is taking place. The ADHD label is sometimes used in cases of children who have difficulty concentrating or staying calm, ignoring other possible alternative explanations.