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Learning Disorders

What is Considered a Learning Disorder?

Commonly referred to simply as “LD”, “learning disorders” is an umbrella term for a group of disorders that interfere with a child’s ability to learn basic skills. Learning disorders can be divided into three main categories; reading, writing or mathematical disorders. Children with a learning disorder may be unable to carry out certain tasks in these categories, or may do so at a level that is at least two years below the grade level for their age. Generally speaking, people with learning disorders are of average or above average intelligence. In Thailand, learning disorders are found in about 6-10 percent of school-age children.

Symptoms and Characteristics:

Reading disorder 

  • Reading unclearly or incorrectly, often very slowly and with great difficulty
  • Exhibit jerky or hesitant reading skills or may often simply try to guess. 
  • Have difficulty with reading comprehension and/or may not understand what they are reading at all.
  • Trouble pronouncing, sounding or spelling words correctly when reading 
  • Skipping difficult words or words they are unable to read. 
  • Add extra words to sentences, replace certain consonants or vowels with others
  • Difficulty remembering vowels
  • Confuse the order of letters in words and conjugate verbs improperly.

Spelling and writing disorders

  • Difficulties with writing
  • Poor spelling skills 
  • Display an inability to write sentences 
  • Use grammar incorrectly
  • Have trouble organizing written language
  • Have a hard time conveying their ideas or thoughts via writing

Mathematical learning disorders

  • May not understand the value of numbers and counting
  • Lack “number sense” 
  • Unable to calculate answers such as adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing according to mathematical rules and strategies. 
  • Difficulty doing or understanding word problems
  • May lack the ability to apply arithmetical facts and processes in problem solving. 

All of these symptoms will show a distinct difference from other children within the same age bracket. This could, hence, be a problem that affects their learning on a long-term and continual basis.

Behavioral Problems in Children with LD

Some examples of possible behavioral problems in children with LD may be a lack of interest in learning. They may work slower or have unfinished work, lack concentration in learning, avoid reading and writing, be irritable, and may lack confidence in reading and writing. They will frequently answer that they do not know or cannot do things, or they may display a great deal of stress over homework. As a result, this may cause adults to view these children as lazy, lacking in motivation to study, stubborn and/or badly behaved. 

LD may have an effect on a child’s emotions as well. Children with LD are often likely to experience emotional problems and have difficulty adapting as a result. For example, they may be moody and irritable, easily discouraged, bored, sad, lacking in self-confidence, or feel inferior to their friends because of what they are unable to do, in some cases to the point that they will resist or be unwilling to go to school.

How Do Doctors Diagnose and Help Children with LD?

The doctor will first review and assess the child’s general and medical history, learning and/or school history, developmental history, and reports from the child’s regular teachers. The doctor will then perform a mental health and developmental evaluation, in order to assess the child for other common co-occurring disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), speech and communication disorders. 

A psychologist will also perform assessments to determine discrepancies between a child’s academic achievements and IQ. After a diagnosis, the doctor will provide a thorough understanding and explanation about the LD, if they exist. Alongside, they will offer emotional support to the family, as well as help to treat other co-occurring disorders. They will also provide care, and recommend special education teachers who can help with the child’s studies and give additional instruction in areas of deficiency.

Why is Early Identification of LD Important?

Recognizing and helping children with LD is incredibly important and requires a great deal of understanding from the parents. All three parties—parents, doctors and teachers—must work and cooperate with one another. Children should receive an individualized learning plan with learning materials specifically designed for those with LD. 

When children with learning disorders receive proper help and attention it helps them feel happier about their school, which then boosts their desire to go to school. And most importantly, these children will have more confidence and higher self-esteem.

 

Varisa Nisakanist, M.D.
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
Special Needs Child Center
Samitivej Children’s Hospital

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Varisa Kanchanachayphoom, M.D. Summary: Child And Adolescent Psychiatry Child And Adolescent Psychiatry