Learning Disorders

What is Learning Disorders? Learning Disorders are a cluster of several disorders, all of which are related to difficulty in learning. A child with learning disorder may have trouble in one or more of these areas: speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, mathematical ability, listening, language, communication and comprehension. In spite of these, the child will have average intellectual abilities, and may even excel in various other activities, compared to others of his age.
Causes of Learning Disorders? Genetic Factor: Various factors influence the process of Learning Disorders. Throughout pregnancy, the brain develops in order to take up the activities of the growing body. This mass of tissue is vulnerable to disruptions too. If the disruption occurs early, the fetus may die, or the infant may be born with widespread disabilities and possibly mental retardation. If the disruption occurs later, when the cells are becoming specialized and moving into place, it may leave errors in the cell makeup, location, or connections. Some scientists believe that these errors may later show up as learning disorders. Also, the fact that learning disabilities tend to run in families indicates that there may be a genetic link.
Teratogenic Factors: This includes the innumerable number of other factors, which may lead to cause LD. Certain habits like use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs by women during pregnancy may have damaging effects on the unborn child. Mothers who smoke during pregnancy may be more likely to bear smaller babies, thus putting them at risk for a variety of problems, including learning disorders. Similarly, alcohol may distort the developing neurons and lead to problems with learning, attention, memory, or problem solving, apart from increasing chances for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Drugs such as cocaine may cause receptor damage. Other possible causes of learning disabilities involve complications during pregnancy. In some cases, the mother's immune system reacts to the fetus and attacks it as if it were an infection. This type of disruption seems to cause newly formed brain cells to settle in the wrong part of the brain. Or during delivery, the umbilical cord may become twisted and temporarily cut off oxygen to the fetus. This, too, can impair brain functions and lead to LD.
Biochemical Factors: Possible chemical imbalance that lead to inefficient or faulty brain functioning. Environmental Factors: There may be an alternative explanation for why LD might seem to run in families. Some learning difficulties may actually stem from the family environment. For example, parents who have expressive language disorders might talk less to their children, or the language they use may be distorted. In such cases, the child lacks a good model for acquiring language and therefore, may seem to be learning disabled. Environmental toxins that may lead to learning disabilities, possibly by disrupting childhood brain development or brain processes. Cadmium and lead, both prevalent in the environment, are becoming a leading focus of neurological research. In addition, there is growing evidence that learning problems may develop in children with cancer who had been treated with chemotherapy or radiation at an early age. This seems particularly true of children with brain tumors who received radiation to the skull.

Types of Learning Disorders:

  • Difficulty in Reading (Dyslexia)
  • Difficulty in Spelling
  • Difficulty in Writing
  • Difficulty in Arithmetic (Dyscalculia)
  • Difficulty in Language/Communication

Apart from these, the child may also have various associated social and behavioral problems.
Risk factors in Learning Disorders:

  • Family history of learning disabilities;
  • Injuries and long-term illnesses affecting neurological development;
  • Parental substance abuse;
  • Poor prenatal medical care and nutrition;
  • Prenatal injury or delivery complications;
  • Exposure to environmental toxins such as lead or toxic mold;
  • Poverty; and
  • Abuse and neglect.

Early signs in Learning Disorder:

  • Does not connect letters and sounds;
  • Cannot read grade-level text;
  • Cannot understand what he reads;
  • Cannot understand number concepts;
  • Does not understand that numerals represent quantities;
  • Cannot form letters or remember which letters stand for which sounds;
  • Has difficulty following directions, even with help;
  • Has poor memory;
  • Has difficulty communicating with peers and adults;
  • Cannot repeat information or copy items;
  • Has difficulty following lines when cutting; and
  • Has difficulty with attention or behavior.