Learning disabilities or disorders (LDs) are umbrella terms for a wide variety of learning issues. A learning disability is not a problem with intelligence or motivation and kids with learning disabilities aren’t lazy or dumb. In fact, most are just as smart as everyone else. Their brains are simply wired differently — and this difference affects how they receive and process information.
Around one in ten children are affected by a LD. They are extremely common, in people of all ages, and can impact a person’s ability to learn, process information, perform certain cognitive tasks, and successful functioning in life.
Learning disabilities are very treatable. Because the brain is changeable, or neuroplastic, — especially in childhood — the brain can be taught new ways to function which reduce or alleviate learning challenges. Even older brains can show great improvement.
The Most Common Learning Disabilities
It’s important to recognize that having an LD is not a reflection of a person’s intelligence. A child or adult with a LD can be highly intelligent but have challenges processing information because of brain differences. How the brain is wired physically and functionally determines how someone processes information and how effectively the parts of their brain work together to coordinate functioning and learning in daily life.
The most frequent learning disabilities are below. Any of these conditions may become evident in childhood, or they may appear in adulthood as the result of damage to the brain.
Auditory Processing Disorder (ADP):
ADP is where the brain has trouble processing and interpreting sounds. A person is unable to recognize and understand certain differences between words and sounds despite having the ability to hear them correctly. Other issues may include having trouble processing and interpreting the order in which sounds are heard, where the sounds are coming from, and difficulty screening out unrelated sounds.
Dyslexia involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding). For example, the order of letters in a word or words in a sentence may appear reversed, impacting reading comprehension, writing, recalling information from a text, spelling, and even speech. Also called a reading disability, dyslexia is a result of individual differences in areas of the brain that process language.
Dyspraxia is where the brain has difficulty with muscular control, causing problems with coordination, movement, language, and speech. This disorder is not technically considered a LD, however it can have a large impact on learning. There are four types of dyspraxia:
- Verbal (oromotor) dyspraxia – speech.
- Constructional dyspraxia – this has to do with spatial relationships.
- Ideational dyspraxia – affects the ability to perform coordinated movements in a sequence.
- Ideomotor dyspraxia – affects organizing single-step tasks.
Dyspraxia and apraxia are often used interchangeably. The difference between the two is severity, with apraxia being the most severe.
Fine motor skills are affected which directly impact a person’s ability to write in dysgraphia. This often shows up as issues with writing such as allowing enough space to write, writing legibly, spacing of words and letters, spelling challenges, and the inability to think and write simultaneously.