Types of Learning Disabilities: A Comprehensive Guide
Once a child is diagnosed with a learning disability, it becomes a lifelong condition that will need to be managed by their parents and educators. However, this doesn’t mean a child can’t still enjoy an equal and engaging education throughout their life.
In this guide, we will go into detail on the different types of learning disabilities and delve into the technology that’s currently available to aid with a positive learning experience.
What are Learning Disabilities?
Learning disabilities are linked to genetic or neurobiological factors that affect cognitive processes and change the way the brain functions.
This change in brain function can make it difficult for a child to learn basic skills such as math and writing as easily as other children. Short-term memory, organization, reasoning, and attention may also be affected, which can have an impact on education as well as life in general.
Learning disabilities should not be confused with intellectual disabilities, which affect a child’s ability to learn and function at a level that’s appropriate for their age.
Unlike intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities are not linked to IQ levels but rather a child’s ability to master a specific skill as easily as others.
Some of the most common signs of a learning disability include trouble writing, spelling, and reading, difficulty understanding math calculations as well as problems with memory and focus.
What are the 7 Main Types of Learning Disabilities?
Let’s take a closer look at the main types of learning disabilities that a child could be diagnosed with.
Also referred to as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD affects someone’s ability to focus and control their impulses. This common learning disability impacts children and adults of all ages, but the condition is most often diagnosed during childhood years.
In a classroom setting, a child with ADHD may end up lagging in their learning because it’s difficult for them to focus. Distracting other children due to a lack of impulse control can be another issue. ADHD cannot be cured but it can be managed and treated.
Signs of ADHD in adults and children include an inability to sit still, difficulty keeping quiet, mood swings, forgetfulness, and a general lack of motivation.
Dyslexia, which impacts a person’s reading and language processing skills, is one of the world’s most common learning disabilities. The condition can’t be reversed but with the right tools, it’s possible to overcome its obstacles.
Some of the effects of dyslexia include difficulties with reading comprehension and spelling, reversing the position of letters, problems with auditory processing and phonological awareness, and delayed speech.
This particular learning disability affects math skills in particular. A child with dyscalculia has a hard time understanding math concepts, solving mathematical problems, and performing calculations. And not just complex math either – even the most basic math concepts are next to impossible to understand.
Signs that a child might be struggling with dyscalculia include difficulty with concepts such as measurements and time, an inability to understand and solve basic math problems, and issues with counting or grouping numbers.
Some will argue that dyspraxia isn’t deemed to be a learning disability but because it doesn’t affect intellect levels, it fits into this category. Dyspraxia impacts someone’s ability to plan and coordinate movement, including actions such as writing, balance, coordination, and even tying shoelaces. Basically, it makes it difficult for a child to perform actions in a particular order.
Poor hand-eye coordination is one of the signs of dyspraxia as are general learning difficulties. A combination of medical and educational assessments can determine whether a child has this condition.
This learning disability makes it difficult for a person to write, which means their spelling, handwriting, and ability to form clear sentences will be affected. Dysgraphia can be caused by developmental delays as well as neurological conditions.
Some of the signs that a child may have dysgraphia include untidy handwriting, taking too long to write and structure sentences, poor grammar, and difficulty organizing pages.
6. Auditory & Visual Processing Disorders
A child with an auditory and visual processing disorder will find it difficult to process information based on sound and sight. The cause of this disorder could be genetic, but can also result from brain injuries such as a concussion.
With an auditory and visual processing disorder, it’s hard to discern the sounds of letters and words, making writing and reading quite a tough task. Math concepts that cannot be visually represented will also be difficult to understand.
All too often, this condition is misdiagnosed as ADHD because children have poor attention spans in both cases.
7. Visual Motor Deficit
This is another learning disability that leads to poor hand-eye coordination. Children with a visual motor deficit will lose their places when reading and find it frustrating to work with glue, pencils, crayons, and scissors.
While reading, letters that look similar will also be confusing and in some instances, a child will present with unusual eye activity.
Technology that Helps with Different Types of Learning Disabilities
Thanks to assistive technology, the classroom doesn’t need to be a frustrating and demotivating environment for children with learning disabilities.
Here are some examples of the technology that is most commonly used:
A special overlay helps customize the appearance and functionality of a keyboard based on a student’s needs. In essence, an alternative keyboard can group keys according to color, reduce input choices, and even replace letters and numbers with graphics.
For learners who have trouble organizing information, a graphic organizer can help. This tool helps demonstrate the relationship between facts and concepts in a visual way, making it easier to understand what you’re learning.
OCR allows a student to scan printed material into a computer or handheld device, which can then be read out loud by a screen reader. OCR can be purchased as a stand-alone device or as computer software.
For children with ADHD, an FM listening system can be really useful. This device will transmit a speaker’s voice directly to the user, helping cut out any background noise and distractions. For this to work, the speaker will need to wear a microphone and the learner, earphones.
To make it easier for a learner to write, word-prediction software can be used for word suggestions as they type. The aim is to improve spelling, grammar, and word choices.
Some children find it easier to type than write by hand. A portable word processor makes it possible for a learner to edit and correct their work more efficiently than if they had to do it by hand.
With the help of a built-in speech synthesizer, a talking calculator reads out numbers, symbols, and answers to math problems. Having this audio feedback makes it easier for a child to check the accuracy of their equations and answers before transferring them to paper.
Learning disabilities can be frustrating at first, but once diagnosed, you can move on to providing your child with the right emotional and technological support, changing their world for the better.
Every child deserves the chance to learn and engage in a classroom in a way that works for them, something assistive technology, dedicated parents, and the right educators can help with.
Learning Disability FAQs
Yes, ADHD is seen as a learning disability because it can prevent a child or adult from mastering a specific skill. Difficulty focusing and sitting still, poor memory, and a general lack of motivation are all symptoms of ADHD, symptoms that can make learning far more difficult than it needs to be.
Autism operates on a spectrum and is not classified as a learning disability. However, many people with autism have a learning disability. Environmental, biological, and genetic factors can all be linked to autism and while there is some crossover between autism and intellectual disabilities, it can’t necessarily be categorized as an intellectual disability either.
There is some debate about whether dyspraxia is really a learning disability. The condition doesn’t impact intellect levels, but it can affect a person’s ability to plan and coordinate their movements. This means any actions that need to be performed in a particular order become far more difficult. Tasks such as learning how to write or tie your shoelaces rely on these types of skills, which means dyspraxia can be seen as a learning disability.