What do Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson; Shark Tank investor Barbara Corcoran, and IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad have in common besides topping the world’s most coveted rich lists? They all suffered from dyslexia, a learning disorder, when growing up.
Learning disorders refer to a variety of neurological learning challenges that affect how one sees, hears, understands, processes and retains information. Learning disorders have nothing to do with one’s intelligence. If undiagnosed, they can make a child frustrated leading to loss of confidence and low self-esteem. According to Sir Richard Branson, an outspoken dyslexia ambassador, the experience was so harrowing that it left him feeling ‘stupid’ while his teachers dismissed him as lazy.
Among the most common learning disorders are:
Dyslexia: Dyslexic children exhibit difficulty with reading, writing and spelling. This is because they have poor letter and word recognition, joining words and ideas and slow speed and fluency in reading.
Dyscalculia: In this case a child has difficulty dealing with numbers. This manifests itself through a poor show in math class, dealing with finances or even telling time. Dyscalculia is largely brought about by other disorders such as difficulty in language learning, visual disorder or sequencing, organisation and memorisation of information.
Dysgraphia: This refers to difficulty in writing such as problems with the physical act of writing or poor comprehension and organisation of words. Neatness, accuracy and consistency of writing and copying of alphabetical letters, words and spelling are also a challenge.
Dyspraxia: It is also referred to as a sensory integration disorder or developmental coordination disorder. A child with dyspraxia experiences difficulty with the synchronisation of motor skills such as hand-eye coordination, holding a pen, speech and general body balance to do activities such as jumping.
Auditory processing disorder: This refers to difficulty in differentiating between sounds due to poor ear and brain coordination. It may also result in difficulty with reading, comprehension, and language learning.
Visual processing disorder: This refers to difficulty in interpreting visual information. Children with this disorder have trouble with calculations, general reading and interpreting items such as maps, charts, symbols and pictures.
In case you are having a difficult time figuring out whether your child has a learning disorder or not, here a few things to look out for:
Problems finding and pronouncing words
Trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, colours, shapes or days of the week
Difficulty following directions or learning routines
Difficulty controlling crayons, pencils, and scissors, or colouring within the borders
Trouble with buttons, zippers, snaps or shoelaces
Five to nine years
Trouble learning the connection between letters and sounds
Poor ability to blend sounds to make words
Confusing basic words when reading
Consistently misspelling words and reading errors
Trouble learning basic math concepts
Difficulty telling time and remembering sequences
Slow to learn new skills
10 years and above
Difficulty with reading comprehension or math skills
Trouble with open-ended test questions and word problems
Dislikes reading and writing and avoids reading aloud
Spells the same word differently in a single document
Poor organisational skills (bedroom, homework, desk is messy and disorganised)
Trouble following classroom discussions and expressing thoughts aloud
Treating learning disorders
The first course of action in the event you suspect your child has a learning disorder is to visit a specialist such as a clinical, developmental or educational psychologist for a thorough diagnosis. There is a silver lining when it comes to learning disabilities. With good care and patience, it is possible to help the brain rewire its neurological functions to facilitate the cognitive skills needed for learning. All it takes is a different approach to learning as far as the affected child is concerned.
After a proper diagnosis, if your child is in a public school and the curriculum and pace does not favour them, consider a private school that caters for their needs or home schooling. Here are some more tips:
Find out the easiest way your child responds to learning and foster that skill.
In the event of a hearing disorder, find out if assisted learning devices can make a difference. Create a sterile environment for them during tutoring hours, as noisy places tend to make them anxious.
Avoid stress. Be patient with your child and yourself, celebrate goals and small wins and encourage your child to build their confidence.
Published in September 2016