Knowing about learning difficulties is important as you know that learning difficulties affect the life of a child beyond academics. Furthermore, a child with learning difficulty may be poor in organization, attention, long and short-term memory, time planning and reasoning (you have read this in my article “Learning difficulties Affect Beyond Academics”). As a parent, you must also have to understand the signs and symptoms of learning difficulties. Now, let us understand the types of learning difficulties.
Learning difficulties is a broad term as it encompasses a number of other more specific learning difficulties, such as:
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) or Central Auditory Processing Disorder
A child with this disorder is unable to make out small differences between sounds even when somebody is clearly and loudly speaking to them – in other words, the sounds are clear and loud enough to be heard, but the child is not in a position to process it completely. The child can’t even sense the origin of the sound or the direction from where the sound is coming. Children with this disorder are unable to make out the order of the sound – and thus not in a position to block the competing background noises. In a nutshell, if a child has this disorder, then the sound waves that are travelling uninterrupted are not properly processed and interpreted by the brain.
Signs and symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder
- Repeat the question posed to them many times with the word “What”
- Difficulty in understanding complex sentences or words
- Difficulties in following a series of directions
- Get easily distracted by background sounds and noises
- The processing ability of thoughts and ideas is very slow
- Difficulty in remembering and processing language-related tasks
- Mispronunciation, misspelling, difficulty in processing and remembering a language-related task
- Confusion with similar-sounding words
Dyslexia is a learning disorder associated with reading due to difficulties in making out sounds and understanding how they are related to letters and words. It is a language-based processing difficulty (decoding disability) that affect language processing area of the brain. The learning areas that are affected by this disability include reading fluency, comprehension, spelling, writing, recall, speech and decoding language. Sometimes, dyslexia can co-exist with other learning disabilities. Dyslexia is also known as language-based learning difficulty. The vision and intelligence of children suffering from dyslexia are normal.
Signs and Symptoms of Dyslexia
- Substitute one letter for another
- Change the order of letter
- Show decoding errors
- Exhibits huge difference between reading comprehension and listening comprehension of a text
- Exhibits painful and slow reading
- Substitutes one word for another
- Difficulty in decoding real words compare to other words
- Exhibits difficulty with processing maths information and computations
- A dyslexic child, in general shows difficulties with recalling known words, spelling and written language.
A child with this type of learning disorder is unable to learn maths – mathematical facts, numbers and calculations. The child may also have difficulty in counting, telling numbers, telling time, organizing numbers, memorizing mathematical symbols and formulae with overall poor comprehension of maths.
Signs and symptoms of Dyscalculia
- Difficulty in understanding numbers, sequencing information or events
- Difficulty in putting language to mathematical actions
- Difficulty in processes mathematical information – numbers, sequences, orders
- Finds difficulty in implementing steps involved in solving problems
- Difficulty in comprehending and doing word problems
- Difficulty in solving long problems, organizing problems on-page and carrying out long division problems to completion
- Difficulty in keeping numbers lined up (aligned)
- The other difficulties include recognition of patterns while multiplying, subtracting, adding and dividing.
- Trouble understanding negative and positive value, number lines and quantity, place value; borrowing and carrying is difficult.
- Handling money and making a change is difficult
- Understanding of fractions is difficult
- Trouble understanding of general concepts pertaining to time including days, weeks, months, seasons, years and so on.
Children with this type of disorder have difficulties with handwriting abilities and fine motor skills. This is a specific learning difficulty that makes a child’s handwriting illegible – which means the problems with handwriting include poor spellings, difficulty writing words, composing writing, poor spatial planning on paper and inconsistent spacing.
Signs and Symptoms of dysgraphia
- Illegible handwriting
- Illegible cursive writing
- Inconsistencies in handwriting throughout – alphabets, cases – lower case and upper case, letters, spatial positions of letters (cursive script), irregular shapes and sizes of letters, words, alphabets
- Spatial planning on paper is poor
- Writing or copying sentences is slow and laborious
- Previsualization of letters formation is difficult
- Gripping is poor, crooked or cramped
- Difficulty in creative writing and taking notes; thinking and writing simultaneously
- Spacing between letters and words is inconsistent
- Scripts have omitted letters and words
- Difficulty in positioning paper – marked by strange twists, turns and movements
- Shows abnormal wrist or body position
Learning difficulties in a child come to parents’ focus only when they see that their child is not performing well in school despite taking every possible measure and action. Mostly, reading, writing and difficulties with maths are recognizable during school years as parents become keen and pay attention to signs and symptoms. However, this is not the usual scenario. Sometimes, the problem may go undetected till children go to secondary and post-secondary education or even become adults and carry their difficulties in their workplace too. Some unlucky children may never get their parents’ attention – and therefore, never receive any evaluation – and carry their difficulties throughout life. In such cases, they never know why they were poor in academics, had problems with their siblings, relatives, family members and friends.
In a nutshell, any sort of learning difficulty can lead to several problems in an individual’s life and can possibly change their destiny.
In addition to learning difficulties, some children may be at a disadvantage due to other learning problems – which may be due to intellectual disability, emotional disturbance, hearing problems, visual defects or motor problems. Sometimes, children may also be at a disadvantage due to economic, cultural and environmental factors. Whether it is a learning disability or learning problem, it is always better to consult a specialist doctor to rule out the cause and seek appropriate treatment.