By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
Come with me on an informative journey to learn about learning disabilities. You will learn how to recognize a possible learning disability in your child, as well as strategies to make the challenges easier (whether or not there is a certified learning disability).
For a child to have a learning disability there must be a discrepancy (difference) between their IQ Score (intelligence) and their achievement scores (academic levels). School districts use different discrepancy scores.
There are 7 areas of learning disabilities and a person can have a learning disability in one or more of these areas.
Oral Expression is how well the child speaks their thoughts or how clearly they make the letter sounds. If this is the only problem, then the child is Speech and Language Impaired (SLI) rather than LD. A speech and language therapist can offer ideas that you can do with your child at home.
Listening Comprehension is the child’s ability to understand words and ideas and remember oral directions. (Listening and follow-through are frequent complaints for children with ADHD, but this may not be a learning disability.)
- Give only 1 or 2 oral directions at a time
- Pair a verbal direction with words or a picture
- Make a list for morning, after school, and evening routines
- Include pictures on the list (let the child help to select)
Written Expression is expressing oneself in writing. Often these children express themselves well verbally, but when asked to write, don’t know how to begin. They also may have difficulty with run-on sentences. Some children’s writing is to the point and they don’t know how to expand their writing. Written expression often includes fine motor coordination and difficulty copying from the board or a book.
- Eliminate or minimize the amount that needs to be copied (provide a set of notes)
- Allow them to write on a computer
- Have them dictate to you
- Provide oral tests
- Have the child brainstorm ideas, then write the essay (start in the middle if needed), then correct grammar and lastly punctuation
Reading Skills (decoding) and Reading Comprehension can occur together or a child might have just one. A learning disability in reading skills can include choppy reading, monotone reading, reversing letters, skipping lines, rereading words.
- Eliminate bright lights
- Use a plain ruler to place under the line they’re reading
- Read to them (books on tape, etc)
- Avoid scantron tests (which use fill-in-the-bubble answer sheets)
- Use colored paper to reduce the glare
- Allow extra time
- See an Irlen screener (www.irlen.com); use colored overlays
- Consider having your child’s vision tested by a Developmental Optometrist to determine if the eyes are working together properly
- Test for phonological difficulties – this is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds without seeing the lettersPlay rhyming games with your child; a specialist can share more ideas
Some children who are poor readers can have excellent comprehension. A learning disability in reading comprehension is when the child has difficulty with “higher level thinking” – analysis, synthesis, categorizing etc.
- Use pictures, your child’s interest areas and what they already understand to teach new concepts
- Offer lots of review
- Specialized tutoring is usually best for this difficulty
Math Skills is completing math problems. It is important that children understand the concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Yet, children with learning disabilities rarely find success memorizing math facts.
- Use blocks and other three-dimensional objects to teach math facts and concepts
- Memorize facts in small chunks and review often
- Use a calculator
- Older children often need a math tutor (don’t wait until too many math concepts are missed)
Math Comprehension includes time, money, measurement and word problems.
- Use the child’s interest areas to help them understand the concepts
- A math tutor or specialist in learning disabilities may be needed
I hope that this information helps you to understand learning disabilities and to navigate your children’s challenges. If after reading this information you suspect that your child has a learning disability, contact your child’s teacher or counselor. You can contact me, or another specialist, if you are looking for strategies for your child’s specific needs, want information about Irlen, or are looking for guidance while navigating the world of IEPs, evaluations and meetings.
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties; work or school related anxiety; ADHD; Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders; and those who wish to Remember and Become Who You Really Are. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www. SpiralWisdom.net for more information.
Published in Metro You Magazine, March 2011