What Is a Learning Disability?
A learning disability (LD) is a neurological disorder that creates a discrepancy between a person’s intellectual ability and his or her performance in work or school. While there are still questions about what actually causes an LD, it is believed in most cases to be an inherited disorder. This disability cannot be cured or fixed, but children, adolescents, and adults can be successful in school, work, and life with the proper supports. People with an LD may have difficulty with mathematics (dyscalculia), writing (dysgraphia), or reading (dyslexia).
Children’s learning disabilities usually become more apparent when teachers and parents realize the difficulties they are having in the classroom. This traditionally does not occur until the child has spent time in a 1st or 2nd grade classroom. Teachers or parents may notice some or all of the following characteristics.
The child may:
- speak later than other children in the class
- have difficulty following directions
- be slow to remember new skills
- find printing or handwriting difficult
- avoid reading aloud
- have trouble with math word problems
Adults with LD may:
- work slowly
- have a poor memory
- avoid reading
- have weak spelling skills.
LD assessments are usually made by school or clinical psychologists. Diagnosis occurs through a combination of techniques and includes a clinician, client, and parent(s), teacher(s), and significant other(s), if applicable. Observations of how the client learns or works are made by appropriate people such as teachers, parents, or the clinician. The clinician will also conduct an interview with the client to hear about the clients’ difficulties in school or work. The clinician will review school records to better understand the student’s school performance across time. The clinician will also conduct assessments that will help determine if a discrepancy exists between the client’s intellectual ability and his or her academic performance.
What Is a Nonverbal Learning Disability?
A nonverbal learning disability (NVLD) is another specific type of LD that is accompanied by:
- difficulties in motor coordination (e.g., balance problems)
- visual-spatial-organizational problems (e.g., poor distance or depth perception)
- difficulties in social situations (e.g., difficulty “reading” facial expressions or tone)
- sensory deficits (e.g., sensitivity to light or sound).
People with NVLD may have a very large vocabulary, a good memory, and early speech and spelling skills. However, their everyday functioning is impaired by the difficulties they face due to their learning disability.
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