Learning disabilities are neurologically based processing problems. These processing problems can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing and maths.  They can also interfere with higher level skills such as organisation, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short term memory and attention.  It is important to realise that learning disabilities can affect an individual’s life beyond academics and can impact relationships with family, friends and in the workplace.

Since difficulties with reading, writing and/or math are recognisable problems during the school years, the signs and symptoms of learning disabilities are most often diagnosed during that time. 

Learning disabilities should not be confused with learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps; of intellectual disability; of emotional disturbance; or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantages.

A learning disability cannot be cured or fixed; it is a lifelong challenge. However, with appropriate support and intervention, people with learning disabilities can achieve success in school, at work, in relationships, and in the community.

SOME EMINENT PEOPLE WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES

Michael Phelps (ADHD)

Growing up, champion swimmer Michael Phelps was continually criticized by teachers for his inability to sit still, and was formally diagnosed with ADHD when he was in fifth grade. After being on Ritalin for over two years, Phelps chose to stop using the drug and instead used swimming to help him find focus. His choice clearly paid off, as he ended his Olympic career as the most highly decorated Olympian of all time, boasting 22 medals (18 of them being gold).

Daniel Radcliffe (Dyspraxia)

Most notable for his role as Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe has lived with a mild case of dyspraxia for his entire life. Dyspraxia is a common neurological disorder that affects motor skill development, meaning that at 25 years old and the star of one of the largest franchises in movie history, Radcliffe still has trouble tying his shoelaces.

Justin Timberlake (ADD and OCD)

Justin Timberlake revealed  that he has both Attention Deficit Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and is quoted as saying “I have OCD mixed with ADD. You try living with that.” His OCD manifests in the need to have things line up correctly, and only allowing certain foods in his refrigerator. Despite battling his obsessive thoughts, Timberlake has had an incredibly successful career in the entertainment industry, even winning nine Grammy Awards and four Emmy Awards.

Richard Branson (Dyslexia)

Entrepreneur, billionaire, and “The only person in the world to have built eight billion-dollar companies from scratch in eight different countries.” Richard Branson is a model for success, he is also dyslexic. Unlike many, who consider dyslexia a curse, Branson calls it his “greatest strength.” Growing up in a time when dyslexia was largely misunderstood, Branson’s teachers simply labeled him as lazy or “not very clever.” After starting up a successful alternative newspaper in high school, he was confronted by his headmaster who said, “Congratulations, Branson. I predict that you will either go to prison or become a millionaire.” Looking back on the incident Branson said “That was quite a startling prediction, but in some respects he was right on both counts!”

COMMON SIGNS OF LEARNING DISABILITIES

If parents, teachers, and other professionals discover a child’s learning disability early and provide the right kind of help, it can give the child a chance to develop skills needed to lead a successful and productive life.

Parents are often the first to notice that “something doesn’t seem right.” If you are aware of the common signs of learning disabilities, you will be able to recognise potential problems early. The following is a checklist of characteristics that may point to a learning disability. Most people will, from time to time, see one or more of these warning signs in their children. This is normal. If, however, you see several of these characteristics over a long period of time, consider the possibility of a learning disability. Read More 

TYPES OF LEARNING DISORDERS

Dyslexia

A specific learning disability that affects reading and related language-based processing skills. The severity can differ in each individual but can affect reading fluency, decoding, reading comprehension, recall, writing, spelling, and sometimes speech and can exist along with other related disorders. Dyslexia is sometimes referred to as a Language-Based Learning Disability. Read more 

Dyscalculia

A specific learning disability that affects a person’s ability to understand numbers and learn math facts. Individuals with this type of LD may also have poor comprehension of math symbols, may struggle with memorising and organising numbers, have difficulty telling time, or have trouble with counting. Read more 

Dysgraphia

A specific learning disability that affects a person’s handwriting ability and fine motor skills. Problems may include illegible handwriting, inconsistent spacing, poor spatial planning on paper, poor spelling, and difficulty composing writing as well as thinking and writing at the same time. Read more 

Language Processing Disorder

A specific type of Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) in which there is difficulty attaching meaning to sound groups that form words, sentences and stories. While an APD affects the interpretation of all sounds coming into the brain, a Language Processing Disorder (LPD) relates only to the processing of language. LPD can affect expressive language and/or receptive language. Read more 

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

APD is also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder, this is a condition that adversely affects how sound that travels unimpeded through the ear is processed or interpreted by the brain. Individuals with APD do not recognise subtle differences between sounds in words, even when the sounds are loud and clear enough to be heard. They can also find it difficult to tell where sounds are coming from, to make sense of the order of sounds, or to block out competing background noises. Read more 

RELATED DISORDERS

ADHD

A disorder that includes difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behaviour and hyperactivity. Although ADHD is not considered a learning disability, research indicates that from 30-50 percent of children with ADHD also have a specific learning disability, and that the two conditions can interact to make learning extremely challenging.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a condition that becomes apparent in some children in the preschool and early school years. It is hard for these children to control their behaviour and/or pay attention.  Many children with ADHD approximately 20 to 30 percent also have a specific learning disability. Read more 

MEMORY

Affects storing and later retrieving information or getting information out. Three types of memory are important to learning, “working memory”, “short term memory” and “long term memory.” All three types of memory are used in the processing of both verbal and non-verbal information. Read more