Experts aren’t exactly sure what causes learning disabilities. In fact, there is often no apparent cause for LD. LD may be due to
Heredity. Often learning disabilities run in families. Children with LD are likely to have parents or other relatives with similar difficulties.
Problems during pregnancy and birth. An illness or injury during or before birth may cause an LD. Drug and alcohol use during pregnancy, low birth weight, lack of oxygen and premature or prolonged labor may also lead to an LD.
Incidents after birth. Serious illness, head injuries, poor nutrition and exposure to toxins such as lead can contribute to LD.
Learning disabilities are not caused by economic disadvantage or cultural differences, nor are they the result of lack of educational opportunity. That said, children who are denied timely and effective instruction during critical times during their development are at high risk for showing signs of LD during the school years and beyond.
Are Learning Disabilities Common?
Today, approximately 2.4 million school-aged children in the U.S. are identified as having specific learning disabilities (SLD) and receive some kind of special education support.1 These numbers do not include children in private and religious schools or those who are home-schooled.
What Can You Do About Learning Disabilities?
Learning disabilities are lifelong challenges. Although they don’t go away, they should not stop individuals from from achieving their goals. A learning disability is not a disease, and there is no single course of treatment or intervention that works for everyone. The first step to overcoming the challenges posed by LD is to recognize that a problem might exist. Then seek help from qualified professionals, who can provide guidance through a personalized evaluation process. Working with a trusted team of professionals, it is then possible to identify the types of accommodations, services and supports that will lead to success.
The LD identification process is not set in stone and will vary from state to state (for school age children) and from one adult to another depending upon the nature of the presenting difficulties and the professionals enlisted to provide testing and guidance. For example, an elementary school age child who shows signs of dyslexia (specific LD in reading) might demonstrate excellent skills in math, so an evaluation would be tailored to better understand the specific components of reading (i.e., phonemic awareness, comprehension, automaticity) that would help with planning an appropriate course of instruction and intervention.
If a parent suspects that their child might have a learning disability, it is important that they record (in writing) their observations and share them with, teachers, physicians and others who might be able to confirm or add important detail. If informal efforts to help the child overcome these difficulties is not successful (over a short period of time the next step is to initiate (in writing) a request to begin a formal evaluation process.
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