An Introduction to Learning Disabilities by Karen Kelly



How do you know if your child has a learning disability?

Causes of Learning Disabilities

Identification of Learning Disabilities

Educational Implications

Accommodations and Modifications

Famous People with learning Disabilities

A Final Word


Close your eyes and try to envision having important needs and thoughts to communicate, but you are unable to express them. Now imagine being bombarded by outside sights and sounds, but you are unable to focus your attention on the task at hand. Now pretend you are trying to read, write or add, but you can't make sense of the numbers or letters.

You have just imagined the world of the learning disabled. It is the world of a hidden disability where people cannot see your impairment, so they may label you as lazy, uncaring or unmotivated. There are no methods to pinpoint exactly what caused these learning disabilities. It is a world where the set of characteristics is different from person to person, and where there are no promising cures, and there is no one definition.

There are many definitions of learning disabilities and just as many interpretations. The following are but a sample of the definitions available.
Click on the links below to read some of them.

LD Online Definitions

When Learning is a Problem

Dr. Larry Silver

How do you know if your child has a learning disability?

There are predominant characteristics that are evident when describing learning disabilities. Fundamentally there is a significant difference in the person's achievement in some areas as compared to the person's overall intelligence creating what is known as a discrepancy factor. Students who have learning disabilities may exhibit a wide range of traits, with problems ranging from difficulties with reading comprehension, spoken language, writing, reasoning ability, motor coordination and inattention.
Click on the links below to see some of these traits.

LDOnline Characteristics

LD Characteristics Checklist

Causes of Learning Disabilities

Just as there are many interpretations of learning disabilities, so are there a large number of possible causes. It is believed that the disabilities occur because there is difficulty coordinating information from several parts of the brain. There can be possible prenatal, perinatal or postnatal causes.
Click on these links to view some of the possible causes.

National Institute of Mental Health: Causes

Identification of Learning Disabilities

Identifying children early on can be of great importance although it is not an easy task. After a child is born, doctors and parents can look for signs of developmental milestones such as when a child begins to talk, sit up, and walk. Learning disorders may be informally indicated by observation. Actual diagnosis is usually made using certain standardized tests. The different diagnosing methods may involve a variety of professionals. When all of the information is collected, the child study team reviews the data and makes a determination of whether the discrepancy and learning problems are indicative of a learning disability.
You can click on the links below for more information on diagnosing learning disabilities.

National Institute of Mental Health: First Signs

National Institute of Mental Health: Formal Diagnosis>


Educational Implications

After a child is diagnosed with learning disabilities, there are important educational implications. Placement into a program which will meet the needs of the child is decided at the classification meeting and an IEP (Individualized Educational Program) is developed. The IEP is designed with great care in order to address the accommodations and modifications needed for the child's educational experience.
If you'd like to read up on some of the latest in educational programming, click on the links below.


U.S. Department of Education: A Guide to IEPs

Assessing Children for the Presence of a Disability

Accommodations and Modifications

Once an IEP is written, certain accommodations and modifications must be clearly spelled out in the IEP and communicated to the teachers of the child. There is a virtual "Chinese menu" of accommodations from which to choose and they should be tailored to the individual student to meet his or her needs during the school day. Of primary importance is to capitalize on the student's strengths.Some accommodations may be general, such as setting clear expectations, while others are more specific, i.e. provide a tape recorded version of a reading assignment. Strategy intervention is an important part of instruction for the learning disabled. Metacognition, self-talk, memory strategies and verbal rehearsal are examples of learning strategies that can be taught directly to the student and will help the student become a more strategic learner.
Check out the links below to get an idea of some of the modifications and adaptations that can be made.

Compensatory Techniques and Curriculum Adaptations

Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities

Modification Checklists

Famous People with Learning Disabilities

With all the supports in place, the learning disabled child has a good chance of "surviving" school, both positively and productively. The learning disabled child is not alone. Many learning disabled individuals have led fruitful and successful lives. Some of them received the appropriate assistance and some did not. Many have managed to rise above or compensate for their disabilities and did not let it stand in their way to achieve their goals.
Click on the links below and see how many famous people had or have a learning disability!

Celebrity Quiz

More Famous People

A Final Word

Our goal in teaching and supporting the learning disabled child is to help them to be the best they can be and to give them a sense of "can-do" along with improved self-confidence. The adults involved with the learning disabled child can promote a sense of accomplishment and self-worth and provide an accepting and favorable environment. Our goal is to make the learning disabled student lead a productive and successful life and to make the most of the strengths that he or she possess. By being informed and intervening early and appropriately, we can assist the learning disabled individual to reach these goals.

Through a Child's Eyes

A Parent's Creed

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