Learning disorders involve an inability to acquire, retain, or broadly use specific skills or information, resulting from deficiencies in attention, memory, or reasoning and affecting academic performance.
Affected children may be slow to learn names of colors or letters, to count, or to learn to read or write.
Children take a series of academic and intelligence tests given by learning specialists.
Treatment involves a learning plan tailored to the child’s skills.
Learning disorders are quite different from intellectual disability (previously called mental retardation) and occur in children with normal or even high intellectual function. Learning disorders affect only certain functions, whereas in children with intellectual disability, difficulties affect cognitive functions broadly.
Three common types of learning disorders are
Disorders of written expression
Thus, children with learning disorders may have significant difficulty understanding and learning math, but have no difficulty reading, writing, and doing well in other subjects. Dyslexia is the best known of the learning disorders. Learning disorders do not include learning problems that are due primarily to problems of vision, hearing, coordination, or emotional disturbance, although these problems can also occur in children with learning disorders.
Although the causes of learning disorders are not fully understood, they include abnormalities in the basic processes involved in understanding or in using spoken or written language or numerical and spatial reasoning.
Although the number of children with learning disorders is unknown, about 5% of the school-age population in the United States receives special educational services for learning disorders. Boys with learning disorders may outnumber girls five to one, although girls are often not recognized or diagnosed as having learning disorders.
Many children, particularly those with behavioral problems, do poorly in school and are tested by educational psychologists for learning disorders. However, some children with certain types of learning disorders hide their deficits well, avoiding diagnosis, and therefore treatment, for a long time.