This doesn’t mean that people with learning disorders (LD) aren’t as smart as their peers. As a matter of fact, they are often very intelligent. Did you know that Albert Einstein couldn't read until the age of nine? Walt Disney, General George Patton, and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller had trouble reading all their lives. Whoopi Goldberg and Charles Schwab and many others have learning disabilities which haven't affected their success in life.
According to the website ldonline.org, some common types of learning disorders are:
Dyslexia – A language-based disability in which a person has trouble understanding written words. It may also be referred to as reading disability or reading disorder.
Dyscalculia – A mathematical disability in which a person has a difficult time solving arithmetic problems and grasping math concepts.
Dysgraphia – A writing disability in which a person finds it hard to form letters or write within a defined space.
Auditory and visual processing disorders – A sensory disability in which a person has difficulty with understanding language despite normal hearing and vision.
Nonverbal learning disabilities – A neurological disorder which originates in the right hemisphere of the brain, causing problems with visual-spatial, intuitive, organizational and information processing function.
The diagnosis process itself can be very difficult. Particular criteria are used in a school setting to diagnose a learning disorder, while different methods are used by private practice evaluators. Some experts even disagree on the best way to diagnosis learning disorders. Diagnosis is not an exact science by any means. In this article I’ll focus mainly the diagnosis process used in the school setting.
The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) regulations require schools to conduct activities to find and diagnose children with specific learning disabilities from ages 3 to 21. There is also a requirement for schools to provide a complete educational evaluation on children who are suspected to have a learning disability to determine if they need special education services. IDEA regulations are very general and therefore, specific requirements are often left up to each state. Usually the process of diagnosis is consistent among schools within the same state but methods may differ from state to state. Therefore, it is possible for a student to qualify as being learning disabled in one state but not another.
Public schools typically use two methods of evaluation. First there is a formal evaluation in learning disability testing that is required by federal and state regulations to determine eligibility for special education. This testing is important because it provides important information about the child's suspected disability. If it’s determined the child has a disability an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is developed by a team which includes special education teachers, parents, school officials and occupational and physical therapists if needed. This plan lays a roadmap for teachers to follow in educating the student.
Response to Intervention (RTI) is a method used in order to evaluate whether or not the learning disability is the cause of the student’s difficulties in school.
If you suspect your child or someone you know may have a learning disability, you may contact the school system for testing. Anyone can refer a child for evaluation. A program called “Babies Can’t Wait” manages evaluations and services for children from birth to age three. The local school system takes over at age three. Head Start also has a program for their students.
Although there is no cure, LD can be managed through different techniques of learning information and other interventions.
Resources: ldonline.org, ncld.org.
Pam Rasmussen is a resident of LaFayette. She is the mother of a child with spina bifida and an advocate for children and adults with disabilities. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.