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Learning Disabilities


How to recognize a learning disability in your child



76751016
August 2012

Spot the signs of a learning disability

Each weekday morning, you say goodbye to your child, sending him or her to school to learn. Like any parent, you want to provide the best education you can. But what if your child experiences a gap between performance and age-level expectations? If that is a pattern with your child – aside from the occasional¬ hit-and-miss – it may be an indication of something more: a learning disability.

"Roughly 15 percent of American schoolchildren are affected by learning disabilities," says Ernest Smith, M.D., a developmental/behavioral pediatrician at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent. "Children with learning disabilities are just as smart as other children. They simply don't learn in the traditional manner. Their brains take in and process information in a different way."

The key, Dr. Smith says, is identifying learning disabilities early so parents, teachers and the child can work together to determine how they best learn.

Academic difficulties

It can be very difficult to spot a learning disability. The signs can look confusing or like another problem altogether. Dr. Smith suggests these observational steps:

• Watch how your child carries out your instructions at home.

• Meet with teachers to discuss his or her performance and behavior in the classroom.

• Sit with your child as he or she does homework, and note difficulties that arise.

If you have concerns, the next step is to schedule an appointment with a learning specialist for a comprehensive educational evaluation that detects any learning disabilities.

Behavioral symptoms

In addition to struggling academically, children with learning disabilities sometimes act out their struggles in social contexts. This may be because they are having trouble learning or feel especially frustrated in the school environment. It's also not uncommon for a child with a learning disability to suffer from poor self-image as a result of the struggles.

"The best way to counter any accompanying negative feelings is to focus on helping children with disabilities realize their strengths and work on ways to develop them even more," says Dr. Smith. "Learning disabilities are manageable. Once you figure out what specifically they are facing, then you can help them get what they need to succeed to reach their full potential and feel good about themselves again."

For this and other children's health tips, Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent offers free kids' health e-news. To sign up, visit www.KidsHealthLine.com.

Different ages, different symptoms



Not surprisingly, learning disabilities may look different in children, depending on their age, grade, temperament, strengths, weaknesses and other associated learning problems.



Toddlers and preschoolers



• Difficulty learning alphabet, colors, numbers

• Pronunciation problems

• Speech delays

• Frustration and distraction

• Trouble following directions



Elementary school children



• Organizational and time management problems

• Impulsivity

• Transposing or mixing up of words and letters

• Difficulty learning and recalling new information


Tags: In This Issue, Pediatric Health

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