Neurological Diagnosis and Treatment for Learning Disabilities

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Clinical Reference Guide:
What We Diagnose, How We Diagnose and Treatment Options

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Adults
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Children
Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder
Digital EEG and Evoked Potentials Assessment (DEEP)
Cognitive Guidance for High Achievers
Developmental Coordination Disorder
Learning Disabilities
Speech and Language Disorders
Physical Therapy

Learning Disabilities

What are learning disabilities?
If a child has average or above-average intelligence and is performing very poorly in school, he or she may have a learning disability. This disability is caused by the makeup or function of a person's brain and may last throughout life.

The definition of learning disability used for educational purposes may vary from state to state. These disorders involve difficulties with listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or solving math problems.

What are the characteristics of learning disabilities?
Learning disabilities have a wide range of characteristics and various degrees of severity. However, all learning-disabled children have poor or uneven academic achievement even though they have normal or above-normal intelligence. These children may show difficulties in one or many of the following areas:

  1. Attention
    Focusing attention is by far the most common difficulty children have with learning disabilities. As a result, these children may often perform poorly in the classroom, on tests, or at home. Impulsiveness may affect their ability to give thoughtful responses to questions or to stop inappropriate behaviors. They may seem to be lazy or disinterested because they have trouble focusing on details and get tired easily when they try to concentrate.

  2. Language
    Children may have difficulties with receptive language or with expressive language.
    Children who often ask to have things repeated or have trouble following multiple instructions may have difficulties in receptive language.

    Children who cannot express themselves clearly may have expressive language difficulties. They may often use the wrong words or mix their words up. They may not be able to tell a story without getting the events mixed up. (This type of difficulty should not be confused with the problems of a child who uses English as a second language.)

  3. Temporal-spatial orientation
    A child with problems in this area may have trouble understanding the difference between tomorrow and next week. Or he may have difficulty with directions and often get lost. He may be the last to learn the way to the bus or the bathroom.

  4. Visual-perceptual processing
    Many children seem to see letters or words backwards. For example, they may confuse b's and d's or read "was" for "saw" even after they have finished the 3rd grade. They may also have difficulty learning to write and get poor marks in penmanship.

  5. Auditory-perceptual processing
    Children who have this kind of problem have difficulty focusing on important sounds in the classroom instead of background noise. For example, they may have difficulty listening to the teacher. They may appear inattentive and have trouble following spoken instructions.

  6. Memory
    Many children may have trouble remembering basic information like their addresses and phone numbers. They may find it hard to remember multiplication tables or days of the week. They may also have trouble with short-term memory and forget classroom instructions or where they are in telling a story or in conversation.

  7. Fine motor control
    Children who have trouble with fine motor control have poor handwriting and turn in messy papers. They may be slow in copying work from the blackboard. It may be hard for them to produce good work because writing is so difficult. They become ashamed of their work .

  8. Gross motor control
    Children with a learning disability may at times appear to be clumsy and awkward. They may drop things and bump into desks more often than other children. As a result, their peers may tease and reject them
What are the consequences of learning disabilities?

Children who are not doing well in school may not feel good about themselves. If they feel they can't cope with the demands of the people around them, they may withdraw from their friends and social activities. Some experts believe that the loss of self-esteem may cause learning-disabled children to spend time with others who view themselves as losers and may contribute to juvenile delinquency. The children may lose motivation and drop out of school. It is important not to overlook poor self-esteem in learning-disabled children. These children need to receive counseling and change expectations about themselves.


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