Do you have or do you know children with learning disabilities or difficulties? This is a common fact. And children with learning disabilities are a relevant topic. Reading, writing, counting, these learnings are the basis of the school curriculum. A child experiencing difficulties in these areas is at increased risk of marginalization, even stigmatization, and subsequent difficulty of social integration.
Indeed, learning is at the center of the school, the child is at the center of the school, the school is at the center of the child’s life. A school failure echoes on all the spheres of his personality, his entire emotional life, his entire development.
What Is a Learning Disability?
According to the World Health Organization, the learning disability is a medical term that refers to a permanent disorder of neurological origin. A learning disability is an impairment of one or more neuropsychological functions, which disrupts the acquisition, comprehension, use, and processing of verbal or nonverbal information.
The learning disability is not caused by an intellectual disability, or by a sensory deficit (visual or auditory acuity), a lack of school supervision, a lack of motivation, or disadvantaged socio-economic conditions.
Learning disabilities may be present from birth (genetic, congenital) or they can be acquired through brain damage.
There are also children with learning disabilities that appear in children whose intelligence is normal and disorders that come from a disability or intellectual retardation.
A learning disability is characterized by a dysfunction in the process of acquiring knowledge. It is specific to the cognitive function affected: there are learning disabilities related to language, attention, but also to specific skills such as reading, spelling, arithmetic, etc.
A learning disability is identified when the subject’s performance in standardized tests shows a delay of at least two years between the current level of the child and the expected level, given his age. More than a notion of delay, learning disability refers to disorganization in the process of acquiring knowledge. The development is abnormal in its structure: the child produces errors different from those of other students.
The Main Learning Disabilities
* Dyslexia: reading
* Dyspraxia: coordination and visuospatial skills
* Dysphasia: oral language
* Dyscalculia: calculus
* Dysgraphia: written language
* Dysorthography: spelling
* Deficit of attention: attentional abilities.
This developmental disorder disrupts the acquisition of written language in intelligent children with no sensory disturbance, psychological disorder or severe socio-cultural deprivation. Dyslexia can be of several types depending on the cognitive functions affected at play in reading: phonological dyslexia, surface dyslexia. Frequently dyslexia can be associated with other learning disorders such as dysorthography. Rehabilitation of these types of disorders is the responsibility of speech therapists.
Dyspraxia is a psychomotor disorder that affects everything that is voluntary gesture and that must be organized in sequences. A dyspraxic child often falls, knocks, makes everything fall around him, gives involuntary blows to others.
In cubes games, puzzles, assembly games the child is lost. The child draws little and badly. He always goes beyond coloring. At school the consequences happen quickly: the acquisition of the writing is laborious, the graphic gesture is tense, the child trains his letters badly, writing successively too small or too big, can not stay on the lines. Homework is rough, poorly presented, dirty. And above all, writing requires a lot of energy for the child, so it becomes slow, never finishes his work and everyone gets angry because no one understands.
The child who is often shiny orally is considered lazy, lazy, unable to provide the slightest effort when the opposite is true. The dyspraxic children redouble very frequently because they are quickly in check because of the writing and nothing improves because the disorder never dissipates alone.
Dyspraxia is less known and yet frequent to a proportion of 6 to 8% of children from 5 to 11 years. There is a sex ratio of 8.5 boys for a girl.
These are cohorts of failing children with learning disabilities who too often leave the mainstream school system while the rehabilitation of the disorder would have allowed them successful schooling.
This sustainable development disorder affects the acquisition and use of spoken language. There are five main types of dysphasia whose manifestations are very heterogeneous. In all cases, verbal communication is impaired in these intelligent and personality-adapted children. Rehabilitation of these types of disorders is the responsibility of speech therapists.
This disorder affects everything related to the number, number, mathematical logic, calculation. The child does not acquire the notion of numbers, does not understand numerical systems, does not know anything about arithmetic logic. Dyscalculia is a big problem for the child because being maths less is quickly assimilated to the image of a dunce. Yet the child can be brilliant in other areas but his dyscalculia will heavily penalize and devalue him.
Attention Deficit Disorder with or Without Hyperactivity (ADD / H)
The disorder is manifested by motor agitation, the impulsivity of behavior, and cognition associated with significant impairment of attention skills. The child is unable to stay in place, fidgets, respond without thinking, and can not concentrate on his work. Mistakes are very common, work is sloppy, rarely finished, instructions are poorly respected, lack of perseverance is worrying. AD / HD affects 3% to 5% of school-aged children. 50% of these children are in serious school failure.
Delays in Reasoning or Cognitive Disharmony
These are children with normal intelligence but whose development of thought patterns is late compared to age or has developed in a disharmonic (cognitive disharmony). Some cognitive functions were not structured while others followed the normal course of their maturation. The disharmony creates important shifts in intellectual functioning: in certain situations, the child shows no difficulty, in others, the failure is sudden and unexpected. This disorder is very confusing for the child himself but also for parents and teachers who often tend to think that the child is doing it on purpose. A persecutory / persecuted relationship sets in and failure doubles as behavioral disturbances. Yet only this cognitive disturbance is at the root of the child’s problems.
Deficits in Time and/or Space
These are deficits localized to specific skills but have serious consequences in many learning. With bad spatial references one gets lost in the reading because the letters “move”, one shows great difficulties to write correctly or simply to write on the line, the operations are often false because they are never aligned correctly, all of which relates to geometry becomes insurmountable. Even maps of geography in which the child loses all his bearings.
When the temporal landmarks are affected, the child is quickly lost in the organization, in the methodology, he does not know where he is in what he was asked and does things in the disorder or backward. The notions of time, time, chronology, logical sequences become inaccessible to him. And reading and writing are affected. The child gets confused, reverses the letters, loses the structure and the syntax of the sentence.
Landmarks in time and space are necessary bases for most school learning.
Criteria for Diagnosing Children with Learning Disabilities
The criterion for diagnosing learning disabilities is a gap of at least two years between intellectual performance and academic achievement. This gap cannot be explained by an intellectual disability, a psycho-affective disorder, a sensory deficit (vision and hearing), a lack of educational opportunity, or a lack of motivation and interest.
To identify a learning disability it is necessary to analyze the overall portrait of the child or the adult, including his academic progress, his intellectual assessment, and his psycho-emotional profile.
The only people qualified to make these global analyses are neuropsychologists or psychologists specializing in the assessment of learning disabilities, that is to say, professionals with the skills required to assess intellectual abilities, emotional disorders, and academic performance, including reading, spelling, and math skills.
Causes of Learning Disabilities
The research work on learning disorders mainly concerns dyslexia. The presence of a malfunction of the brain circuits involved in phonology (representation and treatment of speech sounds) is today the most commonly accepted cause of dyslexia. However, the frequent association of dyslexia with other developmental disorders encourages researchers to explore other avenues.
The importance of the visual dimension (spatial analysis of the sequence of letters in the word), temporal processing (speed of information transmitted in speech), and broader deficits in motor coordination (cerebellar hypothesis) were emphasized.
Screening is generally done by the teacher who will identify in his class the students likely to develop a learning disability.
To enable effective action, he must intervene early. If it is established as early as 3 or 4 years old, it allows putting in place important support before the entrance to the primary school. It is at this point that the student’s ability to acquire is maximal. The danger of early detection is the risk of detecting and labeling children with learning disabilities who may have recovered spontaneously. Screening at 5 or 6 years reduces the risk of error, being more specific, and allows to better target the interventions to be performed, but limits the support time in learning.
Systematic screening during the compulsory sixth-year examination identifies children with an oral language disorder (possibly already observed on the 4-year examination). Dysphasia diagnosed in kindergarten is a risk factor for dyslexia in 50% of cases.
Signs That Suggest to Children with Learning Disabilities
* the student does not meet the academic requirements;
* the student achieves the academic requirements but with much more effort and work;
* the student has behavior problems;
* the student has emotional problems (anxiety, depression …).
The diagnosis follows the screening. The diagnosis requires the skills of several professionals gathered in a multidisciplinary team. Teachers refer to specialized services, usually to the school psychologist, students who may have a learning disability.
The diagnosis must take into account the different aspects influencing academic success: cognitive, social, emotional, medical. The diagnosis makes it possible to confirm or to refute the presence of the disorder envisaged, to determine with more precision the difficulties of the pupil, and to define suitable axes of care.
The neuropsychological assessment will identify whether there is an impairment of one or more of the following functions:
* the student does not meet the academic requirements
* the attention
* the reasoning
* the conceptualization
* the organization
* visuospatial skills
* the speed of processing or execution
* the coordination
* communication (expression and comprehension)
* the calculation.
Some Clues About the Children with Learning Disabilities
According to specialists’ observations, several warning announcements exist. A passive behavior. A child too attached to his mother, unable to bear the comparison or the competition as well as any form of rivalry, can be alerting.
The inhibition. Children who are too wise, self-withdrawn, and manifest, or local pains in the cranial box, or a feeling of fatigue. Anxious or phobic behaviors about going to school. In the long run are to watch.
Disorders can also be manifested by the constant doubt of toddlers. They check almost ritually every task performed. It can also happen that toddlers have no attraction for everything related to knowledge. They are bored and do not pay attention to anything.
These symptoms are to be examined closely. They are frequently sources of psychological suffering, anxiety, fatigue, or even depression. They lead to the gradual disinvestment of young students. In any case, it is essential to act quickly and accurately.
Difference Between a Learning Disability and Learning Disabilities
Learning disabilities are persistent and permanent. They are not related to intelligence or socio-emotional factors. While there is no known treatment to stop them, appropriate intervention and accommodations can greatly enhance learning – academic performance and workplace performance.
In France, 4 to 10% of children have learning disabilities and are in a situation of academic failure.
These are barriers to learning that are temporary and related to what the person may experience (difficult socio-emotional conditions, bereavement, anxiety, economic hardship). When the necessary is done to eliminate the elements in question, the person usually finds a normal learning rhythm.
Two sources, which are not sealed between them, can be considered:
* The Individual Source.
The difficulty is essentially related to the pupil in the complex relations between the development of his thought and the knowledge to be acquired.
* The Social Source.
It positions the student in his relationships with others, through two dimensions, one macro-social (family, culture), the other micro-social (relationships with other students, teachers, learning context).
In their schooling, almost all students are at one time or another in learning difficulty.
Various disorders can be the cause of academic difficulties and place the child in a situation of failure with the risk of compromising his future. Among the most common, there are sensory disorders, sight disorders, hearing, specific disorders of oral or written language, psycho-emotional difficulties.
Students with learning difficulties often have motivation problems. Their difficulties in learning, their numerous failures, and the image they have in the eyes of other students cause many of them to become demotivated and lose interest in learning in school.
A learning difficulty is not a permanent state. It is only momentary and if an adapted intervention is made with the child, and that, according to what is difficult for him, it will be dissipated. If a child has difficulties with a notion of French, for example, adjectives, until this notion is properly reviewed and integrated so that he can transfer it to other situations, the child will have difficulty. However, when this concept is well understood, the child can continue his learning as he did before. He may face other difficulties later, but still sporadically.
If the child has learning difficulties, it may be that after a few meetings, he/she will be able to continue his / her educational journey only with supervision. If he has a learning disability, the worker can develop tips with the child so that he can progress to autonomy by using them himself.
It is important to understand that a learning disability is a real disability that lasts a lifetime. These disorders not only disrupt school performance, but can also affect all aspects of life, such as peer relationships, the relationship between parents and children, daily and domestic activities, and the performance of work tasks.
MRI, a New Method for Detecting Children with Learning Disabilities
According to a Swedish study conducted by a team at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, published in January 2014 in the Journal of Neuroscience, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests can help detect children with learning disabilities. An MRI can measure future short-term memory capabilities.
Between 10% and 15% of children have learning or attention problems, which may be related to short memory impairments, and therefore to a lack of ability to retain information to solve a problem.
The study, conducted in 62 subjects aged 6 to 20 years, measured performance in cognitive tests during MRI. After further testing two years later, the researchers concluded that MRI helped predict the development of learning abilities in these individuals.
The study shows that MRI can be useful for representing memory development. It would be possible in principle to use the MRI scanner to predict a part of a future development that cannot be done by psychological tests alone. The benefit could be early detection of children at risk of poor development so that they can be helped on time.
This medical imaging technique can help anticipate short memory development problems, which are essential for learning.
MRI alone would not predict future difficulties but would be a useful adjunct to psychological testing.