What are specific learning disabilities?

Specific learning disability(SLD) is an umbrella term used to describe deficits in academic functioning that may manifest itself as a difficulty in speaking, reading, writing, spell, or in understanding or performing mathematical calculations.

SLD commonly manifests as difficulties in

  • Reading (called dyslexia)
  • Writing (called dysgraphia)
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reasoning
  • Math (called dyscalculia)
  • Or a combination of the above.

What are the symptoms of SLD ?

Children with SLD are often of average or above-average intelligence. There is often a noticeable discrepancy between the childs apparent potential and their academic performance.

Symptoms of dyslexia

  • May be slow to learn words and alphabets.
  • May mix up words often.
  • Reading may be very slow and effortful.

Symptoms of dysgraphia

  • Difficulty or distress in writing.
  • Odd ways of holding a pencil.
  • Incomplete letters.
  • Odd and inconsistent handwriting.

Symptoms of dyscalculia

  • Has trouble learning to count.
  • Has trouble with simple math problems.
  • Difficulty grasping concepts in math.

What causes SLD ?

Specific learning disorders are caused due to abnormalities in the developing brain. This may be secondary to factors such as preterm birth, childhood adversities such as infection and malnutrition and maternal infections. There is a greater incidence of SLD in children with genetic disorders such as Down’s syndrome, fragile X syndrome, Turner’s syndrome etc.

How is SLD diagnosed ?

A diagnosis is made after a detailed review of the child’s physical and mental health. It also takes into account inputs from teachers and other caretakers. There are several standardised assessments that a clinical psychologist will administer before a diagnosis is made.

How is SLD treated?

Once an accurate diagnosis is made, children are provided assistance to help with their disabilities. Remediation measures that focus on reading, writing and calculation may help children gradually improve their skills. School-based interventions can be very helpful in children with SLD. Early identification and remediation results in a better overall outcome.

How do I help my child?

In children with SLD, self-esteem can take a severe hit if their life revolves around their impairments alone. Early identification and interventions can help them reach their potential. Please avoid criticising and punishing your child for SLD related issues as that could worsen their self-image. Talk to his/her teachers and make sure they are getting the interventions they require. If their school is ill-equipped or insensitive please find a better school for your child. Some children may require additional interventions in the form of an external tutor who is able to provide adequate interventions. Encourage their every step and most importantly do not push your expectations on them.

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