Treatment for specific learning disorders generally involves

What is specific learning disorder?

Specific learning disorder is a condition that causes children to have difficulty with reading, writing and/or math. If they have trouble with reading and writing, the disorder is called dyslexia. If they have trouble with math, it’s called dyscalculia. It’s not that kids with specific learning disorder aren’t smart. They struggle to learn specific skills that come more easily to other kids of their same age, intelligence, and education level. 

Children with specific learning disorder may have trouble spelling, understanding what they read, writing out their thoughts, or doing math problems. When a child is diagnosed with specific learning disorder, the diagnosis will list the areas that the child struggles with. 

What are the symptoms of specific learning disorder?

Learning disorders are often noticed for the first time when a child is in preschool or elementary school. Specific signs are different depending on what the child has trouble with. 

Signs of dyslexia include:  

  • Struggling to: 
  • Rhyme 
  • Match sounds with letters 
  • Put sounds in the right order 
  • Talking later than other children 
  • Trouble remembering words  
  • Having a hard time following directions 
  • Leaving out little words (like the, and, but, in) or reading them twice  
  • Having trouble sounding out words they don’t know 

Signs of dyscalculia include: 

  • Trouble doing math problems 
  • Difficulty understanding the logic behind math problems 
  • Confusing basic symbols such as “+” and “-” 
  • Making many small mistakes in math problems, like being off by one  

Some children with a learning disorder can use these skills when a teacher is guiding them, but then they have trouble when they are on their own.  

How is specific learning disorder diagnosed?

There are a few different ways to diagnose a specific learning disorder. One option is an educational evaluation, which looks at the child’s academic skills. Another option is a neuropsychological evaluation, which looks more broadly at how the child thinks, learns and communicates. 

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools must provide a student with an evaluation if they might have a learning disorder. Parents can also get the child private testing outside the school. 

How is specific learning disorder treated?

There is no cure for specific learning disorder, but there are many ways for kids with specific learning disorder to improve their skills. A learning specialist can help figure out what kind of support a child needs.  

Treatment usually involves both helping the child learn skills and making a learning plan based on the child’s strengths. For example, a child who has trouble with word problems in math might learn to draw pictures to understand the problem better. Learning with other senses than just sight and sound (like touch, taste or smell) can also help. 

Sometimes, kids with specific learning disorder also have emotional or behavioral challenges. In those cases, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can help as well.  

Risk of getting the wrong diagnosis

Sometimes, other common conditions can look like specific learning disorder on the surface. These include sensory problems, anxiety and ADHD. 

If a child has specific learning disorder but isn’t diagnosed or treated, they can become very frustrated. This might cause them to have mood or behavior problems. These issues can be confused with other conditions including anxiety, depression, oppositional defiant disorder and ADHD.   

This guide was last reviewed or updated on September 7, 2021.

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active.

Signs and Symptoms

It is normal for children to have trouble focusing and behaving at one time or another. However, children with ADHD do not just grow out of these behaviors. The symptoms continue, can be severe, and can cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends.

A child with ADHD might:

  • daydream a lot
  • forget or lose things a lot
  • squirm or fidget
  • talk too much
  • make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks
  • have a hard time resisting temptation
  • have trouble taking turns
  • have difficulty getting along with others

Learn more about signs and symptoms

Types

There are three different ways ADHD presents itself, depending on which types of symptoms are strongest in the individual:

  • Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: It is hard for the individual to organize or finish a task, to pay attention to details, or to follow instructions or conversations. The person is easily distracted or forgets details of daily routines.
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: The person fidgets and talks a lot. It is hard to sit still for long (e.g., for a meal or while doing homework). Smaller children may run, jump or climb constantly. The individual feels restless and has trouble with impulsivity. Someone who is impulsive may interrupt others a lot, grab things from people, or speak at inappropriate times. It is hard for the person to wait their turn or listen to directions. A person with impulsiveness may have more accidents and injuries than others.
  • Combined Presentation: Symptoms of the above two types are equally present in the person.

Because symptoms can change over time, the presentation may change over time as well.

 Learn about symptoms of ADHD, how ADHD is diagnosed, and treatment recommendations including behavior therapy, medication, and school support.

Causes of ADHD

Scientists are studying cause(s) and risk factors in an effort to find better ways to manage and reduce the chances of a person having ADHD. The cause(s) and risk factors for ADHD are unknown, but current research shows that genetics plays an important role. Recent studies link genetic factors with ADHD.1

In addition to genetics, scientists are studying other possible causes and risk factors including:

  • Brain injury
  • Exposure to environmental risks (e.g., lead) during pregnancy or at a young age
  • Alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy
  • Premature delivery
  • Low birth weight

Research does not support the popularly held views that ADHD is caused by eating too much sugar, watching too much television, parenting, or social and environmental factors such as poverty or family chaos. Of course, many things, including these, might make symptoms worse, especially in certain people. But the evidence is not strong enough to conclude that they are the main causes of ADHD.

Diagnosis

Deciding if a child has ADHD is a process with several steps. There is no single test to diagnose ADHD, and many other problems, like anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and certain types of learning disabilities, can have similar symptoms. One step of the process involves having a medical exam, including hearing and vision tests, to rule out other problems with symptoms like ADHD. Diagnosing ADHD usually includes a checklist for rating ADHD symptoms and taking a history of the child from parents, teachers, and sometimes, the child.

Learn more about the criteria for diagnosing ADHD

Treatments

Treatment for specific learning disorders generally involves

In most cases, ADHD is best treated with a combination of behavior therapy and medication. For preschool-aged children (4-5 years of age) with ADHD, behavior therapy, particularly training for parents, is recommended as the first line of treatment before medication is tried. What works best can depend on the child and family. Good treatment plans will include close monitoring, follow-ups, and making changes, if needed, along the way.

Learn more about treatments

Managing Symptoms: Staying Healthy

Being healthy is important for all children and can be especially important for children with ADHD. In addition to behavioral therapy and medication, having a healthy lifestyle can make it easier for your child to deal with ADHD symptoms. Here are some healthy behaviors that may help:

  • Developing healthy eating habits such as eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and choosing lean protein sources
  • Participating in daily physical activity based on age
  • Limiting the amount of daily screen time from TVs, computers, phones, and other electronics
  • Getting the recommended amount of sleep each night based on age

Get Help!

If you or your doctor has concerns about ADHD, you can take your child to a specialist such as a child psychologist, child psychiatrist, or developmental pediatrician, or you can contact your local early intervention agency (for children under 3) or public school (for children 3 and older).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funds the National Resource Center on ADHD, a program of CHADD – Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Their website has links to information for people with ADHD and their families. The National Resource Center operates a call center (1-866-200-8098) with trained staff to answer questions about ADHD.

For more information on services for children with special needs, visit the Center for Parent Information and Resources.  To find the Parent Center near you, you can visit this website.

ADHD in Adults

ADHD can last into adulthood. Some adults have ADHD but have never been diagnosed. The symptoms can cause difficulty at work, at home, or with relationships. Symptoms may look different at older ages, for example, hyperactivity may appear as extreme restlessness. Symptoms can become more severe when the demands of adulthood increase. For more information about diagnosis and treatment throughout the lifespan, please visit the websites of the National Resource Center on ADHD and the National Institutes of Mental Health.

More Information

  • National Resource Center on ADHD
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Reference

  1. Faraone, S. V., Banaschewski, T., Coghill, D., Zheng, Y., Biederman, J., Bellgrove, M. A., . . . Wang, Y. (2021). The World Federation of ADHD International Consensus Statement: 208 evidence-based conclusions about the disorder. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2021.01.022

How are specific learning disorders treated?

Treatment options.
Extra help. A reading specialist, math tutor or other trained professional can teach your child techniques to improve his or her academic, organizational and study skills..
Individualized education program (IEP). ... .
Accommodations. ... .
Therapy. ... .
Medication. ... .
Complementary and alternative medicine..

What is a specific learning disability quizlet?

"Specific learning disability" means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that might manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.

What are the three types of specific learning disorders?

Underneath the learning disability umbrella, many disabilities are categorized as one of three types: dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia.

Which of the following is an example of a specific learning disability?

1) Which of the following is an example of a Specific Learning Disability? Correct! Dyslexia: A persistent, chronic condition in which reading ability lags behind that of non-impaired individuals for the course of most of their lifetime.

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