Does My Child Have a Learning Disorder (LD)?
One of the major barriers to a child’s achievement in school is the presence of a learning disorder. Early identification of a learning disorder is extremely important since it can lead to early intervention, which can make a crucial difference in a child’s success.
Between 10-25 percent of children have some form of a learning disorder. A diagnosis is made if a child’s level of achievement in reading, writing or math is significantly below what it should be based on age, intelligence and schooling. The most common learning difficulty children have is with reading. Some signs that may indicate that a child has or may develop a reading disability include:
Delays in learning to speak; Trouble learning the alphabet and making connections between written letters and the sounds they make; Makes frequent mistakes when reading, such as skipping words, reading words backwards or getting letters out of sequence; poor understanding of what is read.
Other areas of difficulty that are suggestive of a LD include: trouble learning numbers, colors or shapes; difficulty learning about time and directional concepts such as left/right; fine motor difficulties including manipulating a pencil.
One form of a LD called Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) can affect not only a youngster’s academic performance, but also his ability to acquire social skills. Children with this disorder often misread social situations, are poor at picking up facial cues and expressions, have difficulty with judging their physical space and have difficulty with cause and effect relationships. Because of their often-marked social difficulties these children may be diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder.
Children are expected to reach certain milestones in their development. There is an average age for acquiring language, walking and developing socially, but a child who is developing at a later time schedule than his peers is not always cause for anxiety. Although most children are first formally diagnosed in the early grades, parents who note delays in a child’s early development are encouraged to have an evaluation before that time. While some children may ‘outgrow’ their delays, many do not, and a ‘wait and see’ attitude is inadvisable.
The first step in assessing a youngster who may have a learning disorder is to obtain an evaluation with a learning specialist and neuropsychologist. A neuropsychological evaluation not only examines a youngster’s potential and current achievement, but also evaluates memory, ability to learn, language, executive functioning, processing skills and attention. The neuropsychologist should not only explain a child’s areas of weakness but also his areas of strength. A key component of any evaluation is practical information for parents and teachers that provide clear advice on how to teach such youngsters to insure school success.
This column provides educators, parents and families’ important information on child and adolescent mental health issues. If you have a question or would like to suggest a topic for an upcoming article, contact Glenn S. Hirsch, M.D., Medical Director at the NYU Child Study Center at firstname.lastname@example.org. The NYU Child Study Center is dedicated to advancing the field of mental health for children and their families through evidence-based practice, science and education. Our internationally renowned clinical faculty of board certified child and adolescent psychiatrists and psychologists have expertise in many areas including: ADHD, anxiety disorders, childhood and adolescent depression, Tourettes, PTSD and learning differences and treatments including pediatric psychopharmacology and cognitive behavioral therapy. For more information on the NYU Child Study Center, visit www.AboutOurKids.org.#