What is a learning disability?

An exhaustive discussion of the term "learning disability" is beyond the scope of a few paragraphs in a web page, but a definition may be helpful. The National Institute for Learning Development (NILD) defines a learning disability as follows:

"A learning disability is an area of weakness or inefficiency in brain function that significantly hinders our ability to learn or to function in life. It is a pattern of neurological dysfunction in the brain that causes a person to have difficulty correctly receiving information coming into the brain (perception), correctly processing that information once it is received (cognition/thinking) or satisfactorily responding to the information once it has been processed (written and verbal expression, visual-motor coordination, memory, etc)."

This is frequently misdiagnosed as laziness, sloppiness, forgetfulness, defiance, and/or a lack of interest in school.

My child is intelligent. Why does he do poorly in school?

Children with learning disabilities typically have normal to superior intelligence. However, parents and teachers may perceive a distinct discrepancy between the student's ability to learn and the quality of his or her learning performances. Poor spelling, illegible handwriting, inabiity to express thoughts verbally or in writing and difficulty with reading and/or math are common indicators of a learning disability.

Why does my child get into trouble?

A learning disability is a perceptual immaturity in the brain. However, because an otherwise intelligent child fails to perform, the problem may be attributed to poor parenting, bad behavior or the like. Therefore attempts at correction become centered in reward/punishment strategies.

As a result, the child may become frustrated because he feels helpless or "stupid". He may cope with these feelings by becoming angry or engage in inappropriate behavior. He may either become lethargic toward school work, or overly anxious, working hours on each assignment just to "make it perfect". Because he can't succeed with school work, he may seek success in other areas.

Certainly not all behavior problems are caused by a learning disability and behavior problems are not a sure symtom of a learning disability. Unfortunately, however, misdiagnosis of perceptual immaturity and the subsequent application of inappropriate remediation strategies can exaserbate the problems they are attempting to cure.


 

"A learning disability is an area of weakness or inefficiency in brain function that significantly hinders our ability to learn or to function in life."