Explain the types and causes of learning disabilities.
Learning disabilities are a group of neurodevelopmental disorders1 that can significantly hamper a person’s ability to learn new things.
As a result, the person may have trouble with tasks such as speaking, reading, writing, paying attention, understanding information, remembering things, performing mathematical calculations, or coordinating movements.
Learning disabilities typically develop at a young age and are often diagnosed during the person’s school years, since the primary focus at school is learning.4 It is estimated that 8% to 10% of children below the age of 18 in the United States have some type of learning disability.
However, some people are not diagnosed until they attend college or get a job, and others never receive an official diagnosis, so they go through life without knowing why they have so much trouble with academics, work, relationships, and basic day-to-day tasks.
It’s important to understand that people with learning disabilities generally have average to superior intelligence and are often gifted in fields such as science, math, fine arts, and other creative mediums.2 The person is often bright and intelligent, but there may be a gap between their potential and the skills expected from a person of their age.
Nevertheless, some of the most accomplished and influential people in history have had learning disabilities, including Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, and Winston Churchill.2
This article explores the types, causes, symptoms, and treatment of learning disabilities.
Types of Learning Disabilities
“Learning disability” is an umbrella term that encompasses many types of specific learning disorders, including:5
- Dyslexia: Dyslexia is the most common learning disability, accounting for 80% of all learning disability cases.6 It is a language processing disorder characterized by difficulty with speaking, reading, writing, or understanding words. This can cause the person’s vocabulary to develop at a slower pace and lead to issues with grammar, reading comprehension, and other language skills.
- Dysgraphia: People with dysgraphia may have difficulty putting their thoughts into writing due to issues with vocabulary, spelling, grammar, memory, and critical thinking. This condition is characterized by poor handwriting, as the person may struggle with letter spacing, spatial awareness, and motor planning. Dysgraphia can make it hard for the person to think and write simultaneously.
- Dyscalculia: Sometimes known as “math dyslexia,” this condition includes learning disorders related to mathematics, such as difficulty with numbers, concepts, and reasoning. People with dyscalculia may struggle to count money, read clocks and tell time, perform mental math calculations, identify number patterns, and apply mathematical formulae.
- Auditory processing disorder (APD): People with APD may have difficulty processing sounds because their brain misinterprets auditory information received by the ear. As a result, they may confuse the order of sounds in certain words, or they may not be able to distinguish between sounds such as the teacher’s voice and the background noise in the classroom.
- Language processing disorder (LPD): This is a subset of APD, characterized by difficulties with processing spoken language. The person may have difficulty attaching meaning to sound groups representing words, sentences, and stories.
- Nonverbal learning disabilities (NVLD): NVLD is characterized by difficulty interpreting nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and other nonverbal signals.
- Visual perceptual/visual motor deficit: People with this condition may have difficulty with hand-eye coordination and motor activities. They may frequently lose their spot while reading, demonstrate unusual eye movements while reading or writing, confuse similar-looking letters, have difficulty navigating their environment, and struggle to manage items like pens, pencils, crayons, glue, and scissors.