What is a learning disorder in children?
A learning disorder is when a child has trouble learning in certain school subjects. Your child may have problems with reading, math, or writing. Skills may be below what is expected for the child’s age, grade level, and intelligence. The problem is bad enough to interfere with school or everyday activities.
What causes a learning disorder in a child?
Experts believe a learning disorder happens because of a problem in the nervous system. The problem may be in the structure of the brain. Or the chemicals in the brain may not work right. As a result, a child with a learning disorder receives, processes, or communicates information in a different way.
Which children are at risk for a learning disorder?
Learning disorders may run in families. They may also be linked to:
- Problems during pregnancy
- Problems during birth or early infancy
- Other health conditions, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
What are the symptoms of a learning disorder in a child?
Each child’s symptoms may vary. Common symptoms are:
- Reading disorder. A child reads below the expected level given his or her age, grade in school, and intelligence. Children with this problem read slowly and have trouble understanding what they read. They may have trouble with word recognition. They may confuse words that look alike. This disorder is sometimes called dyslexia.
- Mathematics disorder. A child has problems with numbers. He or she may have trouble counting, copying numbers the right way, adding and carrying numbers, learning multiplication tables, and recognizing math symbols.
- Disorder of written expression. A child has trouble with writing skills. He or she struggles with grammar and punctuation, spelling, paragraph organization, or written composition.
How is a learning disorder diagnosed in a child?
Parents or teachers may first spot the signs of a learning disorder in a child. The child may often have trouble with:
- Reading, spelling, writing, or doing math problems
- Understanding or following directions
- Distinguishing right from left
- Reversing letters or numbers. Examples are confusing b and d, or 12 and 21.
A child psychiatrist or other mental health expert can diagnose a learning disorder. He or she will talk with parents and teachers. The child will also need educational and mental health testing.
Public schools have a duty to check children with certain learning problems. And when it is appropriate, these schools must also offer treatment. Check with your school to find out how to request an evaluation. An evaluation identifies whether your child has a learning disorder. It also finds learning strengths and weaknesses. The results help decide on your child’s educational needs and best placement at school.
How is a learning disorder treated in a child?
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Parents, teachers, and mental health experts work together to help a child. Treatments may include:
- Individual or group classes
- Special classes or resources
- Speech therapy
- Family therapy
- Medicines, if a child is easily distracted or hyperactive