One in ten Canadians has a learning disability and it's the top reported disability in school-aged children (aged 5-14), but it's also quite misunderstood.
Here's a primer on basic facts, common misconceptions and helpful tips in dealing with the children in your life who have a learning disability.
Facts about learning disabilities (LD)
- LD is a neurological condition that affects a person's ability to read, write, speak, listen and/or compute mathematics. This makes it harder to store, produce or process information and can affect attention, memory, emotional maturity and social skills.
- Common LD types:
- Dyslexia: Difficulty processing language – trouble reading, spelling and writing
- Dyscalculia: Difficulty with math skills and concepts – trouble solving arithmetic problems
- Dysgraphia: Difficulty with writing – trouble forming letters and expressing ideas
- LD is not the same as mental retardation, autism, blindness, deafness or any kind of behavioural disorder
- Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is not LD, although it can occur in the same person at the same time
- LD tends to run in families
- LD is not caused by poverty or cultural differences
How to spot LD in your child
Learning difficulties often go undetected because they aren't easily seen and the characteristics and severity can vary, but here are some warning signs to look for in your children:
- Problems in listening, speaking or writing
- Difficulty with mathematics
- Distinct gaps in actual vs. expected achievement levels
- Trouble with socio-emotional skills and behaviours
Advice for parents
- Keep open lines of communication between school and home
- Teach your children practical life skills to build confidence
- Make sure to take care of yourself — so you can better handle the challenges of having a child with LD
- Balance the needs of the rest of the family
- Remember to make time for play
- Ask for help! Managing LD can get costly, so take advantage of social resources
- Deny that there's a problem — there's no "growing out of" an LD
- Hide it — this just delays getting help
- Blame yourself or others — guilt and blame accomplish nothing
- Panic or over-worry — this only wears you out
LD success stories
There is no cure for an LD, but children with LD can achieve great success in school and life with encouragement, intervention and support.
Many famous people with LD who have gone on to achieve great things including iconic artist Pablo Picasso and businessman Richard Branson (founder of Virgin Airlines).
For more information and support, visit Find Support and search “learning” for organizations and resources in your area.