Children’s reading, writing, and other types of learning skills develop at a different pace. When a child seems to have difficulty learning what other children of the same age do not, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a learning disability. At the same time, there are some distinct indicators which can tip off parents and/or teachers that a closer look needs to be taken. While there are some signs that all learning disabilities have in common, including behavioral problems or difficulty reading and writing, there are also more specific indicators associated with different types of learning disabilities.
Auditory Processing Disorder – APD is considered a hearing disorder that occurs when the person is overwhelmed by the amount of auditory information they receive. Indicators often vary, according to age, and may include delayed ability to speak and the inability to listen to others effectively. They can have trouble perceiving sounds in a high frequency or sequencing the sounds of words, and become confused when different words sound similar to each other.
Background noise is often a problem, because it prevents them from hearing what is being said to them. Children with APD may not have the same response to the same auditory stimuli when it is presented to them at different times. They have problems following directions, and they may blame the person who is talking for their own lack of understanding.
According to Apraxia-KIDS, language processing is the mental process by which the child perceives, recognizes, understands, and remembers words and sounds. It is important to understand that the child with APD has difficulty with the language processing of words and sentences, not with their meaning.
The variables among children with APD differ significantly. Some children may have problems understanding sentences and phrases without any problem with words. Teachers at schools for children with learning difficulties, like John Cardinal O’Connor School, have the necessary skills to recognize the signs of APD and use teaching techniques to help them cope with difficulties in language processing.
Sensory Processing Disorder – Children with this disability may be either hypersensitive, hyposensitive, or both, with regards to information they receive through their senses. Indicators include having extreme responses to loud, high-pitched sounds or normal acts that involve clanking metal, such as the use of silverware. They may notice background noise that is unobtrusive to others, and often do not like crowds. Those with hypersensitive SPD often have poor balance, and may have a fear of heights and of falling.
Children who have hyposensitive SPD consistently need to touch people and things. They are often clumsy, lack the understanding of other people’s need for personal space, and have an extremely high pain tolerance. These children are often thrill seekers who may hurt other children during play without realizing the threat. Children with hyposensitive SPD do better at schools for learning disabilities, where their condition and the risks associated with it are better understood.
Dyslexia – Dyslexia is a condition in which children are unable to comprehend letters or phrases, resulting in difficulty reading. One common indicator is an inability to differentiate between directional words such as in and out. They may often use incorrect phrases or words and be unable to remember the name of everyday objects such as door or dog. Dyslexia often causes difficulty learning sequences or children’s rhymes.
Although children with dyslexia often enjoy having books read to them, they will show no interest in reading themselves. Although the indicators of dyslexia often occur early, they may not be noticed until after the child goes to school, and exhibits difficulty and/or a lack of desire to read.
Language-Based Learning Disability – A language-based learning disability may be characterized by a phonological processing disorder. Cognitive skills such as the ability to pay attention, the use of auditory and visual information, and memory may be impaired. In other words, they are unable to listen to a verbal lesson, and take the steps to understand it and come to the correct conclusion about responding to the reading.
Treating Learning Disabilities
Once a learning disability is recognized and diagnosed, the school, parents, and physicians will need to work together to provide the best learning opportunity for the child. A Multisensory Approach is used to treat dyslexia and other learning disabilities. The method integrates writing, speaking, listening, and reading to stimulate the senses, and it aids in information processing.
Recognizing the signs or indicators of a specific learning disability, and differentiating between it and a general quirkiness expressed by a child, is the first step toward treating the disability and moving forward.