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Information About Learning Disabilities

What is a Learning Disabililty?

A learning disability is a neurological disorder that interferes with a person's ability to store, process, or produce information and creates a gap between one's ability and performance. Academic problems in a learning disabled student are not caused by mental retardation, emotional disturbances, visual/hearing/motor disabilities, or by environmental or economic disadvantages. They can mildly, moderately, or severely impair the learning process in one or more of the following areas: basic reading skill, reading comprehension, reading fluency, math calcuation, math reasoning, written expression, listening comprehension, or oral expression.

Warning Signs of a Learning Disability

Medical issues should be considered, such as a high exposure to lead based paint, maternal substance abuse, low birth weight, cigarette smoking, and poor nutrition. One of the most consistent features in students with a learning disability is an unevenness in development, however hasty judgment should not be made due to variations in the development of children.

Some warning signs to watch for include the following areas of difficulty:

  • Learning new vocabulary
  • Speaking in full sentences
  • Understanding rules of conversation
  • Retelling stories
  • Remembering newly learned information
  • Following directions
  • Moving from one activity to another
  • Self-esteem
  • Computing math problems on grade level
  • Remembering routines
  • Understanding what he/she reads
  • Learning new skills
  • Modulating voice (speaking too loudly or in a monotone)
  • Keeping notebooks neat and assignments organized
  • Expressing thoughts orally or in writing
  • Understanding what information presented in class is important

If you Suspect that your Child has a Learning Disability

Contact your child's teacher and consult with him/her on a regular basis to chart areas of concern as well as progress throughout the shcool year. If you or your child's teacher have persistent concerns regarding academic progress, the Child Study Team could meet to discuss your child's academic concerns. If testing is warranted, a referral to the Committee on Special Education may be made in order to evaluate your child. An evaluation generally consists of a psychoeducational evaluation by the school psychologist, which includes testing that measures ability (intelligence testing) and achievement (academic testing). Additional achievement tests may also be conducted by the special education teacher. If your child does qualify as a student with a learning disability, an educational plan is developed which includes the most appropriate special education placement, testing accommodations, and program modifications. You will be involved throughout each step of this process, and the school requires your written consent for both testing and placement.

Ways to Help

  • Read with your child following along or listening without looking at the text; tracking along the page with your finger when you read, and READ, READ, READ!!
  • Play rhyming games or games where your child has to guess the name of an item from visual cues
  • Look for patterns of strength and encourage activities that promote skills and confidence
  • Explore alternative ways to accomplish frustrating tasks
  • Become knowledgeable about your child's daily activities and routines and make adaptations that promote success and self-sufficiency
  • Be supportive and encouraging to your child; do not expect that your child will complete all tasks successfully
  • Do not let your child see you become frustrated with his/her academic difficulty
  • Assure your child that you love and support them and that you will do whatever you can to help them succeed
  • Encourage frequent breaks from homework when possible, and determine the most effective time for your child to do homework (immediately after school, after a break/snack, after dinner, etc)