are often worried when their child has learning problems in
school. There are many reasons for school failure, but a common
one is a specific learning disability. Children with learning
disabilities usually have a normal range of intelligence.
They try very hard to follow instructions, concentrate, and
"be good" at home and in school. Yet, despite this effort,
he or she is not mastering school tasks and falls behind.
Learning disabilities affect at least 1 in 10 schoolchildren.
believed that learning disabilities are caused by a difficulty
with the nervous system that affects receiving, processing,
or communicating information. They may also run in families.
Some children with learning disabilities are also hyperactive;
unable to sit still, easily distracted, and have a short attention
and adolescent psychiatrists point out that learning disabilities
are treatable. If not detected and treated early, however,
they can have a tragic "snowballing" effect. For instance,
a child who does not learn addition in elementary school cannot
understand algebra in high school. The child, trying very
hard to learn, becomes more and more frustrated, and develops
emotional problems such as low self-esteem in the face of
repeated failure. Some learning disabled children misbehave
in school because they would rather be seen as "bad" than
should be aware of the most frequent signals of learning disabilities,
when a child:
difficulty understanding and following instructions.
trouble remembering what someone just told him or her.
to master reading, spelling, writing, and/or math skills,
and thus fails schoolwork.
difficulty distinguishing right from left; difficulty identifying
words or a tendency to reverse letters, words, or numbers;
(for example, confusing 25 with 52, "b" with "d," or "on"
coordination in walking, sports, or small activities such
as holding a pencil or tying a shoelace.
loses or misplaces homework, schoolbooks, or other items.
understand the concept of time; is confused by "yesterday,"
deserve a comprehensive evaluation by an expert who can assess
all of the different issues affecting the child. A child and
adolescent psychiatrist can help coordinate the evaluation,
and work with school professionals and others to have the
evaluation and educational testing done to clarify if a learning
disability exists. This includes talking with the child and
family, evaluating their situation, reviewing the educational
testing, and consulting with the school. The child and adolescent
psychiatrist will then make recommendations on appropriate
school placement, the need for special help such as special
educational services or speech-language therapy and help parents
assist their child in maximizing his or her learning potential.
Sometimes individual or family psychotherapy will be recommended.
Medication may be prescribed for hyperactivity or distractibility.
It is important to strengthen the child's self-confidence,
so vital for healthy development, and also help parents and
other family members better understand and cope with the realities
of living with a child with learning disabilities.
information see other Facts for Families: Children Who Canít
Pay Attention (#6), Children Who Wonít Go to School (#7),
Conduct Disorder (#33).
#16 Updated 5/99