Learning disability is a neurological disorder, affecting acquisition, retention, understanding, and organisation or use of verbal and/or non-verbal information. It may also affect time management, organisational skills, social interaction and social perception. Children affectedÂ with learning difficulties do not necessarily have intellectual difficulties but can, in fact, have above average or superior intellectual abilities.
A study (Altarac & Saroha, 2007) conducted amongst US children, found that up to 10 percent of school children were suffering from learning difficulties, whilst a review (Ramaa, 2000) which studied prevalence of learning disability among Indian school going children, found that 3-10 percent of children had some sort of learning disability.
Learning disability consists of dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia.
Dyslexia: The most common learning disability is dyslexia. Dyslexia is a specific disability in reading. Children with dyslexia have difficulty in reading accurately and fluently. They often interchange letters within a word, reading b as d and p as q.
Dyspraxia: This is aÂ condition related to fine motor skills. This is not a condition caused due to low muscle weakness but is purely brain based, where in there are difficulties in planning, coordinating, controlling and executing movements. It also includes poor directional and spatial awareness, poor balance and poor posture and tactile discomfort.
Dysgraphia:Â This refers to difficulty in written expression, it includes difficulties in spontaneous writing, spelling, poor handwriting and the concept of space.
Dyscalculia: Another form of learning difficulty which is associated with mathematics is known as Dyscalculia. Children with dyscalculia have difficulties in understanding the meaning of numbers and a difficulty in performing mathematical operations and grasping arithmetic concepts.
Due to such difficulties, children often struggle academically in school, which leads to issues like low self-esteem, poor self-confidence and low feelings of well-being. Further, it can lead to issues like aggression, anxiety, depression, withdrawal, somatic complaints with a serious risk of being bullied or bullying.
The role of genetic factors:
- Learning disabilities are associated with genetic factors (hereditary- in the sense that father or mother would also have some sort of learning disability), teratogenic factors (cocaine or alcohol use during pregnancy) or neurobiological factors (aberrations in brain structure).
- Factors like oxygen deprivation, low birth weight, maternal malnutrition and premature and prolonged labour can also be linked with learning disability.
- Cultural, socio-economic, psychological, emotional and personality based factors do not have any role in causing learning difficulties.
The silver lining:
Learning disability may be a lifelong issue. However, with support and early interventions in the form of special education, occupational therapy and behavioural counselling, the effects of a learning disability can be mitigated leading to well-adjusted children who can succeed academically in school and can have distinguished careers in the future.
Scholars like Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Alexander Graham Bell and famous personalities like Barbara Corcoran, Steven Spielberg, Whoopi Goldberg have been considered to have a diagnosis of learning difficulty. Despite their struggle in academia they have been able to succeed.
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