All children are challenged by school work now and again and some skills are harder to learn than others.1 But if your child has an ongoing issue in a particular area of learning, he or she could have a learning difficulty.1,2
What is a learning difficulty?
A learning difficulty can involve any aspect of learning, for example, reading, spelling, writing, or mathematics.3 Naturally, you are likely to feel concerned about how your child will get through school and if he or she will be labelled as ‘slow’`?2
Having a learning difficulty does not mean your child cannot learn or has low intelligence.2 Generally, children with learning difficulties are just as smart as everyone else – sometimes smarter. The only difference is that your child’s brain receives, processes, stores and communicates information differently.4
What causes learning difficulties?
Any child can have learning difficulties. No one really knows what causes them but they are more common than you may think.5a
Not to be confused with learning problems resulting from anxiety or depression, stressful events such as moving house or emotional trauma like divorce or death there are specific learning difficulties such as learning disorders that may affect your child’s ability to learn.
While learning disorders can be caused by problems in the womb, serious illness and/or the medical treatment associated with it, they are often genetic. In fact, research shows that children who have a parent with a learning disorder are more likely to develop one themselves.6
Signs and symptoms
Signs vary from one child to the next. Keep in mind, that if your child has a learning difficulty, only some of the signs may be present, and he or she might have different signs at different ages.5 Likewise, the signs may not be obvious and, not wanting to feel different from everyone else, your child might try to play down or hide the fact that there is a problem at all.
Common learning disorders
DYSLEXIA relates to learning difficulties with reading that may also impact writing, spelling and speaking.2,7 If your child has problems with letter and word recognition, struggles to grasp the meaning of words and ideas, has difficulty reading or reads slowly, mumbles or gets tongue-tied, he or she may have dyslexia.2,6
DYSCALCULIA is a term used to describe learning difficulties with mathematics. Struggling to make sense of numbers, children with dyscalculia may encounter problems with counting, remembering and organising numbers, number-related symbols and operation signs like +, = and < (greater than).8
DYSGRAPHIA describes learning difficulties with writing, more specifically written expression. Problems may include inconsistent and untidy handwriting, poor spelling, struggling to form letters and words, and difficulty expressing ideas in writing.
Other common learning disorders include:
- DYSPHASIA, also known as ASPHASIA, refers to learning difficulties with language, particularly the ability to understand and produce spoken language2
- DYSPRAXIA involves difficulty with muscle control learning difficulties with motor skills (cutting, writing, running, jumping, kicking a ball)2
- AUDITORY PROCESSING DISORDER is the inability to hear things correctly (not the same as hearing loss) – when your child cannot process what they hear in quite the same way other children are able to 9
- VISUAL PROCESSING DISORDER refers to the inability to see things correctly (not the same as problems with eyesight) – when your child cannot process what they see in the same way other children are able to
- ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a condition that includes difficulty staying focused and paying attention. Although there is disagreement as to whether ADHD technically qualifies as a learning disorder, children with ADHD are more likely to have a learning difficulty.13
Diagnosis and treatment
Learning difficulties are lifelong and cannot be cured so your child will not grow out of them. Sometimes, they may be detected by a teacher but this is not always the case.
If you notice that your child struggles to keep up it is important to find out why. Get help to identify your child’s particular learning difficulties, the underlying factors and how he or she learns best.6
The sooner you seek help and guidance the sooner you will understand how your child’s brain works and how to support them.
Key lifestyle changes
- Make sure your child gets 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night – have a set bedtime and wake up time
- Regular exercise is important not just for your child’s physical health but for brain health too – make it fun, create a schedule, involve the whole family, get a family gym membership, take brisk walks
- Eat a balanced diet – fish is a great source of protein and it contains important nutrients such as Omega-3s which are proven to support cognition (mental abilities and processes)
- Take a natural supplement to support concentration, learning, and healthy brain development
Improves learning such as reading, drawing, spelling and language development.10, 11
Supports healthy brain development which is important for brain function and neuronal development – neurons are responsible for transmitting information throughout the body.12
Please note: This is educational information only and should not be used for diagnosis. For more information on learning difficulties, consult your healthcare professional.
⦁ Healthychildren.org. Learning Difficulties: What Parents Need To Know. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/learning-disabilities/Pages/Learning-Disabilities-What-Parents-Need-To-Know.aspx. Accessed 12 March 2019.
⦁ HelpGuide. Learning Disabilities and Disorders. Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/autism-learning-disabilities/learning-disabilities-and-disorders.htm/. Accessed 12 March 2019.
⦁ Masters In Special Education. 5 Historical Figures Who Overcame Learning Disorders. Available at: https://www.masters-in-special-education.com/lists/5-historical-figures-who-overcame-learning-disorders/. Accessed 12 March 2019.
⦁ Touch Type Read and Spell (TTRS). When learning disabilities in adults go undiagnosed. Available at: https://www.readandspell.com/learning-disabilities-in-adults. Accessed 12 March 2019.
⦁ Boston Children’s Hospital. Symptoms and Causes for Learning Disorders and Disabilities in Children. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/l/learning-disorders-and-disabilities/symptoms-and-causes. Accessed 12 March 2019.
⦁ National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NIH) . What Causes Learning Disabilities? Available at: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/learning/conditioninfo/causes. Accessed 12 March 2019.
⦁ Kids Health. Understanding Dyslexia. Available at: ⦁ https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/dyslexia.html. Accessed 12 March 2019.
⦁ Understood. 5 Ways Kids Use Working Memory to Learn. Available at: https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/executive-functioning-issues/5-ways-kids-use-working-memory-to-learn. Accessed 12 March 2019.
⦁ Kids Health. Auditory Processing Disorder. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/central-auditory.html. Accessed 12 March 2019.
⦁ Johnson et al. Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2017 Jan;58(1):83-93.
⦁ Parletta et al. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2013 Aug;89(2-3):71-9.
⦁ Very Well Mind. Neurons and Their Role in the Nervous System. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-neuron-2794890. Accessed 12 March 2019.
⦁ Very Well Mind. The Relationship Between ADHD and Learning Disabilities. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/is-adhd-a-learning-disability-4116126. Accessed 2 April 2019.