Information for Patients
Also called: Learning differences, Learning disorders
What is a learning disability?
Learning disabilities are conditions that affect the ability to learn. They can cause problems with
- Understanding what people are saying
- Doing math
- Paying attention
Often, children have more than one kind of learning disability. They may also have another condition, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which can make learning even more of a challenge.
What causes learning disabilities?
Learning disabilities don't have anything to do with intelligence. They are caused by differences in the brain, and they affect the way the brain processes information. These differences are usually present at birth. But there are certain factors that can play a role in the development of a learning disability, including
- Environmental exposures (such as lead)
- Problems during pregnancy (such as the mother's substance abuse)
How do I know if my child has a learning disability?
The earlier you can find and treat a learning disability, the better. Unfortunately, learning disabilities are usually not recognized until a child is in school. If you notice that your child is struggling, talk to your child's teacher or health care provider about an evaluation for a learning disability. The evaluation may include a medical exam, a discussion of family history, and intellectual and school performance testing.
What are the treatments for learning disabilities?
The most common treatment for learning disabilities is special education. A teacher or other learning specialist can help your child learn skills by building on strengths and finding ways to make up for weaknesses. Educators may try special teaching methods, make changes to the classroom, or use technologies that can assist your child's learning needs. Some children also get help from tutors or speech or language therapists.
A child with a learning disability may struggle with low self-esteem, frustration, and other problems. Mental health professionals can help your child understand these feelings, develop coping tools, and build healthy relationships.
If your child has another condition such as ADHD, he or she will need treatment for that condition as well.
NIH: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- Developmental reading disorder (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Disorder of written expression (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Mathematics disorder (Medical Encyclopedia)