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, such as reading, writing or mathematics. 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.
1. Reading disorders
2. Spelling and writing disorders
3. Mathematical learning disorders
Children will have difficulties reading, read incorrectly, often read very slowly and with great difficulty, have trouble pronouncing words correctly when they read, exhibit jerky or hesitant reading skills, read unclearly, or may often simply try to guess. Children with reading disorders may have difficulty with reading comprehension and/or may not understand what they are reading at all. They may have trouble spelling or sounding out words, or they may skip over more difficult words or words they are unable to read. They may also add extra words to sentences, replace certain consonants or vowels with others, have difficulty remembering vowels, confuse the order of letters in words, conjugate verbs improperly, etc.
Children may have difficulties with writing, have poor spelling skills, display an inability to write sentences, use incorrect grammar, have trouble organizing written language, and have a hard time conveying their ideas or thoughts via writing.
For those with mathematical learning disorders, they may not understand the value of numbers and counting, they may lack “number sense” or be unable to calculate answers, add, subtract, multiply or divide according to mathematical rules and strategies. They may have difficulty doing or understanding word problems, and 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, and would be a problem that affects their learning on a long-term and continual basis.
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, and this may cause adults to view these children as lazy, lacking in motivation to study, stubborn and/or badly behaved. 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.
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, etc. A psychologist will also perform assessments to determine discrepancies between a child’s academic achievements and IQ. After a diagnosis is made, the doctor will provide a thorough understanding and explanation about the LD, if they exists, and offer emotional support to the family, as well as helping to treat other co-occurring disorders. They will also provide care, along with special education teachers in order to help with the child’s studies and give additional instruction in areas of deficiency.
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 and learning materials specifically designed for those with LD. When children with learning disorders receive proper help and attention, in addition to helping them feel happier about their school, it also boosts their desire to go to school. And most importantly, these children will have greater confidence and more self-esteem.
Varisa Nisakanist, M.D.
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
Special Needs Child Center
Samitivej Children’s Hospital
M.D.,Faculty of Medicine Prince of Songkla University, 2003. , 2003