lundi 24 février 2014

The ABCs of learning disabilities

What are learning disabilities?

As defined by Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC): "Learning Disabilities refer to a number of disorders which may affect the acquisition, organization, retention, understanding or use of verbal or nonverbal information. These disorders affect learning in individuals who otherwise demonstrate at least average abilities essential for thinking and/or reasoning. As such, learning disabilities are distinct from global intellectual deficiency."

Psychology Today states that: "Learning disabilities affect one's ability to interpret what one sees and hears, or to link information from different parts of the brain."

Are learning disabilities common?

One in 10 Canadians has a learning disability, according to the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada. Men and women were nearly equally as likely to report having a learning condition (52.0% versus 48.0%).

In 2001, according to the Participation and Activity Limitations Survey, it was estimated that 155,000 Canadian children between the ages of 5 and 14, or 4% of all children in this age group, had some form of activity limitation (although figures vary from province to province). And, according to Stats Canada, approximately 631,000 (2.5%) Canadians aged 15 years and older reported having a learning limitation in 2006.

What are some types of learning disabilities?

These include ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), Asperger Syndrome (a form of autism), Dyscalculia (an inability to conceptualize numbers), Dyslexia (problems with reading, spelling and writing), Dyspraxia (clumsiness, poor balance), Epilepsy (chronic neurological disorder that is characterized by recurrent seizures), High Functioning Autism, and ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), among others.

What are some typical treatments for learning disabilities?

Treatments/interventions will depend on the nature and extent of the learning disability. The first step is evaluation/diagnosis (e.g. neuropsychological assessments).

Usually, experts (educators, mental health professionals, including clinical psychologists and professional counselors) work to help a child or an adult to help them learn skills by building on their strengths and developing ways to compensate for their weaknesses.

Well-researched forms of treatments (focused on biological, psychological, and social factors) and recommended by trained and qualified professionals are likely to work best. And often, a multidimensional treatment plan is required. For example, treatment for children may include social skills groups at school and solution-focused counseling.

Feeling discouraged because you or your child has a learning disability?

Don't be. With proper diagnosis and treatment many have overcome their learning disabilities and have lead productive lives.

Some famous people with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) include singer/actor Justin Timberlake, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, star chef Jamie Oliver, comedian Jim Carey, and Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson. Other famous people with learning disabilities (such as dyslexia) include Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, singer Cher, actor Tom Cruise, director Steven Spielberg and designer Tommy Hilfiger.

What can I do as a parent of a child with a learning disability?

Be realistic about what your child can or can't do.

Focus on the strengths, interests and abilities your child has.

Be patient with him or her.

Focus on the effort not the outcome — how hard they try and what they accomplish.

Access all the learning supports and professional help that your child may need.

If you also have a learning disability, share your experience with them (and others).

Speak to the school your child attends should you have concerns.

Dr. Yaniv M. Benzimra
Dr Yannick Mailloux, Ph.D.
Y2 Consulting Psychologists

If you have any questions and/or comments, don't hesitate. Thank you!

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