Psychologists don’t view learning disability as a black and white disorder. Learning disabilities cover a wide spectrum of various cognitive functions and tend to impact a person’s ability to understand complicated information, learn new skills, live independently. Whether you live with an individual with a learning disability or know of someone with a learning disability, there are a number of ways to properly understand and support them.
1. What causes learning disabilities?
There are many different reasons for a learning disability to occur. Sometimes it occurs in early brain development if the mother is ill during the pregnancy or the foetus is deprived of oxygen or nutrients. Sometimes it occurs as a result of genetics or if the child is injured or develops an illness like meningitis during childhood. Sometimes other conditions have learning disabilities associated with it, like Downs Syndrome and cerebral palsy. And sometimes, unfortunately, there is not clear reason at all.
2. How can a learning disability affect a person?
A learning disability can range from being relatively mild and manageable to very severe. Those with easily manageable learning disabilities may seem normal in every other aspect, but struggle with learning new skills which can take them just a bit longer to pick up. On the other hand, other people with serious learning disabilities may have difficulty communicating and need help with everyday tasks like washing or dressing themselves, they may even need supported living as they get older.
Psychologists warn not to confuse a learning disability with learning difficulties. Learning difficulties stem in education and covers issues like dyslexia whereas learning disabilities focus on the difficulties of learning other “skills” not just reading and writing.
3. How should a person with learning disabilities be treated?
The proper support is vital in providing the right care and well-being for those with learning disabilities. GP’s, paediatricians, therapists and psychologists are all there to help those living with learning disabilities have as normal and independent lives as possible. It’s also important that children with learning difficulties get the proper support in school. Life-long skills like reading, writing and interacting with others might take longer for them to pick up but will help them greatly in later life.
There are many people suffering with learning disabilities living normal lives and the last thing they’d want is to be treated differently because of their disability. Of course some may have supported living or assistance in some aspects of their lives, but that doesn’t change their need for friends and fun like any other person.
4. Learning disabilities in children
It is extremely important to identify learning disability at early stage. Many school children are labelled as lazy and stupid, while in fact they have learning disabilities. Psychologists recommend testing children at age 7 and older if there are any signs that the child may have learning disability. Psychologists use various tests to conduct psycho-educational assessments, which consist of an assessment of psychological aspects of learning and of academic skills. Psycho-educational assessments can also help identify ADHD, if present. If your child has been identified as having learning disability, they may get special curriculum, placed in specialized programs, and given extra time on the tests at school and in the college.
5. Focus on the positives
Someone living with a learning disability my find themselves frustrated or angry at situations and learning processes that they find difficult. In cases like this, it’s important to help them focus on different parts of their lives where they thrive, whether it is painting, sports or cooking. It’s important not to treat them as if they’re children. Rather be there to listen and support the individual in their time of need.
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