Kids who call “B” as “D” – About learning disabilities

We have often heard or seen children who confuse between B and D. At the age of 4 when children just learn writing it is quite common but if it continues with a host of other issues, then the child needs to be assessed to see if he/she has learning disability. Since I am seeing/hearing increased cases and discussions about Learning Disabilities commonly called LD, I am presenting some facts about LD.

 Learning disabilities are neurologically-based processing problems and the reason why it affects children has remained a puzzle.  These processing problems can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing and/or math.  They can also interfere with higher level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short term memory and attention.  It is important to realize that learning disabilities can affect an individual’s life beyond academics and can impact relationships with family, friends and in the workplace.

Training a child with LD is very challenging for an educationist like me, given the fact that the intelligence of the child can go waste with improper and incomplete support by family, society and school.  The main fact about children with LD is that their intelligence is on par with normal school going children. Since difficulties with reading, writing and/or math are recognizable problems during the school years, the signs and symptoms of learning disabilities are most often diagnosed during that time. It is quite common for many children to be evaluated only when they reach teenage years.  It is also common for children with LD to have anxiety, grandiosity, low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence and difficulty adjusting to new people, new environment. 

We need to understand that these counseling issues can cause as much problems as learning issues in these children.  Other individuals with learning disabilities may never receive an evaluation and go through life, never knowing why they have difficulties with academics and why they may be having problems in their jobs or in relationships with family and friends.

Learning disabilities should not be confused with learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps; of mental retardation; of emotional disturbance; or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantages.

Generally speaking, people with learning disabilities are of average or above average intelligence. There often appears to be a gap between the individual’s potential and actual achievement. This is why learning disabilities are referred to as “hidden disabilities”: the person looks perfectly “normal” and seems to be a very bright and intelligent person, yet may be unable to demonstrate the skill level expected from someone of a similar age.

A learning disability cannot be cured or fixed; it is a lifelong challenge. However, with appropriate support and intervention, people with learning disabilities can achieve success in school, at work, in relationships, and in the community.

Government and communities are waking up to the reality of LD.  Still in India we need to go a long way in understanding these children. They are usually assessed by Psychiatrists, Clinical Psychologists and Educational Specialists and a report is generated. But finding a proper person to train them is always a challenge for the parents. Also we cannot generalize a child weak in studies as an LD child.  A proper assessment requires to be done to determine if the child has Learning disabilities.

A LD or Learning Disabilities Specialist is the right person to treat these children.  A good LD teacher can successfully guide the children to reach their maximum potential. It is a highly skilled field and requires training, patience and years of practical experience to become an expert.  Taking care of a child with LD is very challenging for the parents due to school expectations and the issues the child faces. It is also interesting that in many cases psychiatric drugs are not required for the child.  Positive attitude, patience, encouragement and love mixed with firmness can help these children go along life in the right direction.  There are high chances that if left unattended the child can easily fall prey to negative forces and people in the society.  Along with the child, the family requires counseling, guidance and training.  Remember that we give only 20% of the training and support to an LD child but 80% of support and training is given by the family.

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