Understanding Learning Disabilities – Part II

Parsi Times presents the second of our three-part series on ‘Understanding Learning Disabilities’ with Mental Health Professional, Kashmira Kakalia, a qualified and highly-experienced Special Education Teacher and a certified Audiblox trainer. Kashmira works with students, adults, families and communities, employing the ‘Narrative Therapy’, with the aim of promoting students with LD on a social, emotional, intellectual and physical development level, towards a self-sufficient future.

Now that we have an understanding of Learning Disabilities, let’s look at some of its causes and types. Though there is no particular known factor or group of factors that causes LD, the following causes are closely related:

Neurological Damage

Neurological damage could occur during prenatal, natal, and post natal periods resulting in learning disability. Factors such as prolonged labour, premature birth, birth complications, maternal age, use of drugs and alcohol, cigarette smoking and low birth weight are some variables that could be responsible for LD.

Maturational Delay

Sometimes within the neurological system there may be a maturational delay, which is responsible for LD, including slow maturation of language skills; delayed development of motor skills; delayed speech and visual motor problems.

Genetic Factors

The exact nature of the relationship between genetic and learning disability remains uncertain, but evidence suggests that LD can be heredity. Studies show that 88% of the families of dyslexic children show similar learning problems.

Biochemical Factors

Chemicals play an important role in brain activity – controlling and releasing nerve impulses between neurons. Absence or even excessive amounts of biochemical substances causes a biological imbalance, leading to LD.

Nutritional Deficiencies

A developing child requires adequate nutrition. A poor diet/malnutrition reduces the child’s ability to learn by damaging inter-sensory abilities and delaying development.

The Role Of The Environment

Several factors in the child’s environment could result in LD. The child may not be exposed to adequate sensory, linguistic and cognitive activities. A poor teaching style; not giving enough time to acquire basic skills, moving too fast or failure to understand how best a child learns, can result in LD. Use of inappropriate materials and curriculum are other factors one must be sensitive to.


Types Of Learning Disabilities:

Dyslexia is related to difficulty with language. People with dyslexia have difficulty with reading, spelling, understanding language they hear, or inability to express themselves clearly when speaking or writing.

Dysgraphia is related to writing difficulty faced in putting thoughts on paper. There is poor muscle control, difficulty in forming letters; writing varies in size; writes with an instable grip; and spelling problems.

Dyscalculia is related to difficulties in Mathematics, like counting numbers on fingers, reading 13 instead of 31, difficulties in learning tables, remembering telephone numbers, months of the year in sequence, mixing up symbols (+  –  x  ÷), difficulty in abstract thinking and reasoning skills.

Dyspraxia is LD in Motor Skills, is also known as Sensory Integration Disorder. Motor difficulty refers to problems with movement and coordination whether it is with fine motor skills (cutting, writing) or gross motor skills (running, jumping). They may have problems with eye-hand coordination, balance and dexterity.

Aphasia/Dysphasia is language related LD, involves the ability to understand or produce verbal language. It requires organizing thoughts and calling upon the right words to verbally explain something or communicate. It involves problems with verbal language skills, such as the ability to retell a story or the ability to understand the meaning of words, parts of speech, reading comprehension and directions.

Auditory And Visual Processing Disorders: It’s important to clarify that this is different from having a hearing impairment like being deaf or dumb, or having a visual impairment like total or partial blindness.

  • Auditory Processing Disorder: An ability to hear well as ‘auditory processing skills’ or ‘receptive language’. The ability to hear things correctly greatly impacts the ability to read, write and spell. An inability to differentiate subtle differences in sound, make it difficult to sound out words and understand the basic concepts of reading, comprehension, language and writing.
  • Visual Processing Disorder: Problems in visual perception include missing subtle differences in shapes, reversing letters or numbers, skipping words, skipping lines, unable to judge depth or distance, or having problems with eye–hand coordination. Visual perception can affect gross and fine motor skills, reading comprehension, math, maps, charts, symbols, pictures.


(To Be Continued In Parsi Times Next Issue…)


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