Specific Learning Disabilities

Difficulties in one or several areas of learning in a child of average or above average intelligence

  • Usually become apparent between the ages of 3 and 7
  • More common in boys
  • Sometimes run in families
  • Lifestyle is not a significant factor

A child whose development is delayed in one or several areas of learning but who has normal intelligence probably has a specific learning disability. Such disabilities are thought to affect up to 15 in 100 otherwise normally developed children and are common cause of poor achievement at school. Specific learning disabilities are more common in boys.

Dyslexia is a common example of a specific learning disability and affects a child’s ability to read or write. In dyscalculia, a child has specific problems with mathematics. Dyspraxia is a learning disability that affects coordination, particularly finely controlled movement, often leading to clumsiness.

In most cases, the cause of a particular learning disability is not known. However, such conditions sometimes run in families, suggesting that genetic factors may be involved. In some cases, specific learning disabilities are due to problems with vision or hearing.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of specific learning disabilities are usually first recognized in early school years and may include:

  • Difficulty coping with reading, writing, and/or mathematics.

  • Problems telling left from right.

  • Poor coordination and difficulty with sports other physical activities.

A child may also become frustrated and develop behavioural problems, such as extreme shyness or aggression.

What might be done?

If a specific learning disability is suspected, a full assessment of a child’s academic and developmental skills will be made. Hearing tests (see Hearing tests in children) and vision tests (see Vision tests in children) may also be performed to rule out the presence of physical conditions that may cause delays in learning.

Parents and teachers should work together to encourage an affected child. In many cases, specialized teaching is necessary. Disorders causing impaired hearing or vision can often be treated successfully. Many children do well if the appropriate remedial treatment is given, but some children continue to experience difficulties throughout life.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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