Learning Disabilities & ADHD:
Even Gifted Kids Can Have These Struggles
By Kimberly Blaker
Approximately 10% of American school-age kids suffer from a learning disability (LD) and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control. It’s estimated that 4% of children have both. For many children, these disorders go undetected despite ongoing struggles with schoolwork and behavior issues that are common indicators of them.
One thing parents and kids should realize is that those with learning disabilities are frequently average or above average in intelligence. A large percentage are actually gifted. Usually, a child with a learning disability will excel in one or more areas while struggling in others, though this is not always the case. Certain external conditions or overlapping spectrum disorders can increase difficulty in learning.
Forms of Learning Disabililities
There are several forms of learning disabilities (LD). Some pose input problems, which means a child struggles with either sound or visual input. Information isn’t processed correctly or gets cataloged wrong in the brain. This can pose problems with retrieval as well as short- or long-term memory.
LD can also cause output issues. This can sometimes be seen to affect fine motor skills such as handwriting. Challenges with verbal output can be evident in that the child has trouble organizing thoughts either in writing or orally. Punctuation, grammar, and spelling also often suffer.
Dyscalculia is a math learning disability. With this disorder, children have may have difficulty learning to tell time, counting, learning math facts, calculating, understanding measurement, or performing mental math.
Dyslexia is a reading disability, though the symptoms are not exclusive to reading. Children with this disorder may have difficulty with spelling, vocabulary, or comprehension. They may read slow, have trouble learning left from right, or have organizational problems both with written and spoken language. They may be above age level in vocabulary and comprehension yet have difficulty learning to read.
Dysgraphia is a writing disability. Poor handwriting and often an awkward style of holding a pencil or contorting the body while writing are hallmarks. A child may also have trouble drawing lines. With dysgraphia, children can often better express their understanding of material through speech.
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a problem with input. It isn’t a problem with hearing; it is when the brain has difficulty processing sounds. As a result, kids with APD may be distracted by loud noise or have difficulty following conversations. It tends to be especially problematic when there’s a lot of background noise, making it difficult to distinguish sounds.
Visual Processing Disorders (VPD) are also an input issue. They aren’t a vision problem. They are a problem with the brain processing what the eyes see. It can result in a child bumping into things or not being able to distinguish the shapes they see. It can also pose difficulty in identifying letters or numbers or result in problems with visual sequencing, among other symptoms.
Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD) is similar to Asperger syndrome and shows up as difficulties with social skills. Academic problems are sometimes present as well but often don’t show up until kids reach higher grade levels. Those with NLD may be afraid of new situations, struggle to make friends, lack common sense, and experience social withdrawal. Academic problems can include reading comprehension and working out math story problems.
ADHD is marked by attention problems and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. Girls often have only attention issues, while boys are more commonly impulsive or hyperactive. Symptoms can include difficulty staying on task or paying attention while often hyper-focusing on stimulating activity. Children with ADHD may fidget or have trouble staying seated, interrupt, and act without thinking.
The symptoms listed above for each of the LDs aren’t exhaustive. To learn more about symptoms, visit Learning Disabilities Association of America https://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/.
What to do if you suspect your child has a Learning disability
The first step is to talk with your child’s teacher and find out what the teacher has observed. Then talk to the school principal, and request an evaluation. Public schools are required by federal law to provide an evaluation. This should include an IQ test, assessments of math, reading, and writing, and testing processing skills. If your child is in a private school, and the private school doesn’t offer this service, you can request it through your public school district.
Once your child has received a diagnosis, your school psychologist should be able to recommend and help you set up services or accommodations for him or her. Depending on the specific learning disability, your child may qualify for special education services under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or accommodations through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Bear in mind, you are your child’s best advocate. Read books and articles on your child’s LD, and learn how you and your school can help. Talk to your child’s teacher about additional ways the teacher can assist your child. Most teachers are eager to help. However, bear in mind that student/teacher ratios and school resources can affect how much a teacher is able to do, especially if there are other children with special needs in the classroom. If you feel your child isn’t getting the help he or she needs, talk to the school administrator. #