The National Institutes of Health reports that 15% of American school children are affected with learning disabilities. If early intervention occurs, children with disabilities can learn strategies to make them as productive and competent as children without learning disabilities.
Learning disabilities occur when children show inadequate development of a specific academic skill. Learning disabilities are not the result of a physical or neurological disorder or mental retardation. Usually there is an impairment in one particular cognitive area of maturation such reading, arithmetic, language or speech.
Learning disabilities are real and result from differences in brain structure or function. Children with leaning disabilities are just as intelligent as children without learning disabilities but have difficulty because they process words and information differently. Scientists are now able to see differences in the brains of children with learning disabilities when compared to children without learning disabilities.
Early signs of learning problems in preschool include late talking, pronunciation problems, slow verbal growth, difficulty rhyming words, trouble learning numbers, extreme restlessness and easily distracted, trouble interacting with peers and poor ability to follow directions.
In grades K-4, children with learning problems may:
*learn the connection between letters and sounds slowly;
*confuse basic words like run, eat, want;
*make consistent reading and spelling errors;
*recall of facts slowly;
*learn new skills slowly;
*rely heavily on memorization;
*have an unstable pencil grip;
*experience trouble learning about time;
*have poor coordination or be prone to accidents; and
*transpose number sequences and confuse arithmetic signs.
If you suspect a child in your program has a learning disability, try following these steps:
1) Collect information about the child's performance. Organizing information about the child will help you monitor progress. Meet with the child's parents, teachers and school personnel. Keep a record of what you notice and about your conversations with professionals.
2) Encourage parents to have the child tested. Ask school administration to provide a comprehensive educational evaluation.
3) Find ways to help the child. Changes can be made in classroom routines to help children with learning disabilities. Talk to the child's teacher about reading aloud, allowing extra time on tests, taping lessons and using new technology.
4) Talk to the child about the disability. Reassure the child that he is not stupid or lazy. Be honest and optimistic with him. Explain that his brain works differently and even though learning may be more of a struggle for him, he can still succeed.
5) Focus on the child's strengths. A child with a learning disability is often very smart, or a good leader or outstanding in sports or arts. Help him with difficulties while focusing on his strengths.
6) Encourage parents to establish a regular time and specific place for the child to do homework; give lots of encouragement; and praise for work well done.
7) Inform parents of their legal rights. Ask the child's school for a summary of the child's rights. Under the law, children with learning disabilities have the right to a free and appropriate public education.