Does my child have a Specific Learning Disorder? (Part 1)

Does my child have a Specific Learning Disorder? (Part 1)

A Specific Learning Disorder is considered to be a type of neurodevelopmental disorder that negatively affects a child’s ability to learn or use specific academic skills—reading, writing or arithmetic—which are the foundations of academic learning.

A key component of the diagnosis is that the learning difficulties are “unexpected” in that other aspects of their development appear within normal range. A Specific Learning Disorder can only be reliably diagnosed after starting formal education. There are a number of different types of Specific Learning Disorders such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia.

Your child may present with the following symptoms with any of the above Specific Learning Disorder sub-types. For instance, your child may struggle with reading, spelling or writing. More specifically, they may have difficulty getting their thoughts down on paper. They also may mix up letters and/or jumble their sentences, or perhaps they have trouble with numbers, time, symbols or maths equations. For instance, they may often confuse addition for subtraction. It may also be apparent that they have difficulty remembering, have problems paying attention and have trouble following directions. They may often have an inconsistent school performance which often frustrates school teachers and parents alike. I have often had a parent state to me that “he knew this last week, why does he not understand today?’’ Your child may also have difficulties with staying organized and may demonstrate inappropriate responses in class or social situations.

Many times I have experienced that a child referred to me was noted to be appearing withdrawn or not interested which was likely to be a consequence of not understanding the classroom activity rather than a deliberate attempt at being disruptive.

However, there are many more children who suffer from learning difficulties rather than a specific learning disorder, which may present with some of the symptoms highlighted above. Research suggests that approximately 20 to 25% of children will struggle at school for a variety of reasons, but only about 5% of these children will suffer from a Specific Learning Disorder. An educational assessment completed in an educational psychology clinic can be useful in determining recommendations for your child with either Learning Difficulties or a Disorder. Specific recommendations can be created that apply directly to your child’s strengths and weaknesses.


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