UNDERSTANDING LEARNING DISABILITIES
A definition of learning disabilities is important because it defines who is eligible for
special education services, what those services will be, and who will pay for them.
Understanding learning disabilities begins with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004)(Public Law 108-446) that describes them as disorders in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using spoken or written language that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.
The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbances, or of any environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
Understanding the Forms of Specific Learning Disability
The law stated above describes the many forms of learning disability as processing disorders. These processing disorders may impact
- vision (visual processing disorder, failure of eyes to send accurate information to the brain),
- hearing (auditory processing disorder, failure to correctly interpret information received by the ears),
- coordination of the muscles of the body with other senses (sensory motor integration),
- the ability to stay focused in the classroom (attention),
- the ability to form and verbalize ideas (conceptualization).
This discussion is best when it is made clear that having a learning disability does not mean that a student can’t learn. It implies that some children benefit less than others from traditional teaching methods. Those children who benefit less may require specific instructional aids or different teaching strategies even with average to above-average intelligence. When supportive teaching modifications are made, many children more than demonstrate their average to above-average abilities.
Understanding Learning Disabilities and Their Causes
At one time it was not certain what caused the strengths and weaknesses in children, but resent research has helped with understanding learning disabilities. Research is reporting that that sociological changes have produced environmental toxins and other trauma that interfere with human growth and development.
Since World War II we have added junk food to our diets, resulting in poor nutrition that does not provide the building blocks necessary to build a healthy brain and central nervous system. TVs in the bed room result in a lack of sleep during which physical growth occurs and information learned is transferred into long term memory.
Add to this heavy metal toxicity from aluminum leaking from our cookware, lead paint on the walls of older houses, and toxic molds and other biological contaminants growing in our homes. All these factors interfere with normal growth and development of infants and children. And most importantly, some of them interfere with the development and function of the learning mechanisms of the brain.
Understanding the Prognosis
The prognosis is best when
- learning problems are identified early;
- specific causes are eleminated from the child's environment;and,
- appropriate classroom accommodations and appropriate teaching methods are implimented at school.
Contrary to the old popular beliefs, recent research reports that the sources of trauma that cause specific learning disabilities can be easily identified, prevented, or removed from the child's environment.
And, when the environment is modified, remarkable changes will be observed in your child's classroom performance in just a few days. The success of a child is directly related to the extent to which his parent or primary caretaker chooses to become involved in making needed changes in his environment.
The author, a School Psychologist, has brought all the research together in our LD Reference Book. Costing less than one counseling session, or a bottle of Ritalin, this manual, along with the links in this article, will guide you through what to do and how to do it.
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