A General Overview of Learning Disabilities
Long gone are the days when learning disabilities had yet to be discovered and the necessary accommodations delivered to those who needed them. Today, we strive to support and continue to enhance the needs, education, and awareness of the numerous learning disabilities.
This is an overview of five learning disabilities that are common in the field of special education today.
- 1Auditory Processing Disorder
This is also known as central auditory processing disorder, or CAPD. About 5% of school children are affected by it. CAPD is a hearing problem where the ears and brain don’t fully coordinate. The brain has difficulty recognizing and interpreting sound, especially speech.
If sounds are delivered one at a time in a very quiet environment, kids with the condition can hear fine. It is only when there are slight differences between sounds in words that they begin to have trouble recognizing them. The culprit is usually background noise. In a playground or the school cafeteria, at sports events or parties, children with APD might have trouble understanding what is being said to them.
If you think your child might have APD, ask yourself these questions:
- Do loud or sudden noises easily distract or unusually bother your child?
- Do noisy environments upset your child?
- Does your child behave better in quieter settings?
- Does your child have difficulty with verbal (word) math problems?
- Does your child have a hard time following conversations?
- 2Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit
A visual perceptual/visual motor deficit affects the understanding of information that a person sees. It may also affect a student’s ability to draw or copy. This is a characteristic often seen in people with other learning disabilities, such as Dysgraphia or Non-verbal Learning Disabilities. Some other signs of this deficit include missing subtle differences in shapes or printed letters, losing place frequently while reading, struggles with cutting, holding a pencil too tightly, or poor eye/hand coordination.
If you think your child might have a Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit, ask yourself these questions:
- Does your child’s work include misaligned letters, colliding letters, irregular spacing or letters not on the line?
- Does your child hold pencils or crayons too tightly, often breaking their points?
- Does your child reverse or invert letters (b for d; u for n)?
- Does your child lose his or her place frequently while reading?
- Does your child turn his or her head when reading across the page or hold the paper at odd angles?
Dysgraphia affects handwriting and fine motor skills. This is problematic when it comes to spelling, word spacing, and the general ability to put thoughts on paper. Writing becomes laboriously slow and the result is usually very difficult to read. This is not about the ability to write creatively. It is not even about penmanship. We are talking about a challenge that interferes with a student’s ability to ‘show what he or she knows.’ Evaluation and diagnosis are critical because academic discouragement easily leads to a sense of inferiority. Furthermore, this extends beyond writing, as fine motor skills such as tying their shoes, are also affected.
If you think your child might suffer from dysgraphia, ask yourself these questions:
- Is your child forming letters and spacing words consistently?
- Can he or she follow a line or stay within margins
- Does he or she have difficulty with sentence structure or following rules of grammar when writing, but not when speaking?
- Does your child struggle with organizing or articulating thoughts on paper?
- If there is a significant difference between his or her spoken and written understanding of a topic?
Dyslexic children struggle with recognizing and manipulating the sound in language. They require phonics instruction to identify the relationship between sound and written symbols. This is dyslexia that appears on paper. On the other hand, a child’s phonemic awareness has to do with their ability to hear, identify and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words. As with other learning disabilities, there is a social and emotional impact. Imagine the frustration caused by being constantly accused of not trying hard enough to learn to read. Special education notices the gap between ability and achievement.
Ask yourself the following questions if you are concerned that your child has dyslexia:
- Does he or she have difficulty with reading?
- Does your child struggle with pronunciation?
- Does he or she omit sounds or letters when reading and writing?
- Does your child get confused by left and right?
- Does he or she have difficulty reading aloud?
- 5Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities
Individuals with non-verbal disabilities have trouble interpreting nonverbal cues like facial expressions or body language. They also may have poor coordination. Also known as NVD or NVLD, this disorder is usually characterized by a significant discrepancy between higher verbal skills and weaker motor, visual-spatial and social skills. These students tend to have strong verbal skills, which gives the “illusion of competence.” Never assume they understand something just because they can repeat or mimic what you’ve just said.
Ask yourself the following questions if you suspect your child has NVD or NVLD:
- Does he or she show poor psycho-motor coordination? In other words, is the child clumsy? Is the child constantly “getting in the way” or bumping into people and objects?
- Is using fine motor skills a challenge, such as tying shoes, writing or using scissors?
- Are changes in routing and transitions a challenge?
- Is he or she able to comprehend circumstances, spatial orientation or directional concepts without verbally labelling everything?
- Does he or she translate everything literally?
The Gateway School an private special education school in New Jersey
Our Mission at The Gateway School is to help all of our special needs students with the learning, social, language, and behavioral support they deserve. Our highly skilled staff are committed daily to helping each student to becoming the best they can while providing a safe and nurturing educational environment.
We would be more than happy to discuss your child’s specific needs and challenges, so please call us at 732.541.4400, or request a tour of The Gateway School located in Carteret New Jersey, just minutes off of the New Jersey Turnpike.
Chris Hoye, Principal-The Gateway School of Carteret, NJ
About RKS Associates
The Gateway School is part of special needs network of schools located in Monmouth, Middlesex and Ocean County New Jersey. Since 1980 the RKS Associates schools have been leaders in helping special needs helping students with various disabilities including autism, Down's syndrome, communication, learning, social, behavioral and emotional disabilities. The range of services RKS schools provide is academic instruction and speech, occupational and physical therapies. In addition to Life Skills, Technology, and a full complement of Support Services.