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Does My Child Have a Learning Disability?

by. Dr. Brent G. Nick

“Back to school” can mean returning to a nagging worry: does my son or daughter have a learning disability?

Does your child mispronounce words? Substitute words that are incorrect? Misspell words? Have difficulty copying letters, words and shapes? Reverse letters (“d” instead of “b”) and letters within words (“saw” instead of “was”)? If this occurs routinely, a learning disability may exist.

Main Types of Learning Disabilities

  • Dyslexia, which makes it difficult to read, spell and write, as well as understand and express words. This is the most common learning disability and can range from severe to subtle.
  • Dyscalculia obstructs understanding of numbers and makes it hard to learn math, money concepts and computing. Pre-schoolers have difficulty counting; grade schoolers have trouble counting money or measuring things.
  • Dysgraphia may be the reason a child has trouble organizing letters, words and numbers on paper. Warning signs including mixing capital and small letters haphazardly, repeated syntax and grammar errors and writing sentences that aren’t straight.
  • Dyspraxia can be why a child has poor hand/eye coordination. Possible signs: not properly holding scissors, being unable to ride a bike or play sports.
  • Auditory Processing Disorder can be evidenced by a child regularly mixing up sounds and words, misunderstanding directions and not distinguishing an important sound (like a parent’s voice) from background noise.
  • Sensory Processing Disorder might be why a child seems overly sensitive to noise, glare, smells and “scratchy” clothing, making concentration and focus difficult.
  • Visual Processing Disorder involves misinterpreting information regarding reading, writing and math. A clue can be if a child struggles to find items on a table or words on a page.

A learning disorder isn’t related a child’s intelligence. Fact: many kids with learning disabilities are very smart and demonstrate it by hiding or obscuring the disability.

Check first for a visual impairment. Eyeglasses along may solve the problem. Consult an ophthalmologist or developmental optometrist.

But if you reasonably suspect your child has a learning disability, the school year’s start is a good time to find out before your student falls behind in studies. Consult the teacher or someone else in the school district, or talk to your pediatrician.

Brent Nick, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician at Austin Regional Clinic – Wilson Parke, near FM 620 north of Steiner Ranch.

Tags: Pediatrician, Wilson Parke, Four Points, Learning Disabilities

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