People with learning disabilities and disorders can learn strategies for coping with their disabilities. Getting help earlier increases the likelihood for success in school and later in life. If learning disabilities remain untreated, a child may begin to feel frustrated with schoolwork, which can lead to low self-esteem, depression, and other problems.
Usually, experts work to help a child learn skills by building on the child’s strengths and developing ways to compensate for the child’s weaknesses. Interventions vary depending on the nature and extent of the disability.
Special Education Services
Children diagnosed with learning and other disabilities in most states, territories and provinces can generally qualify for special educational services. Educational laws typically require that children with specific learning disorder be given the same opportunities that children without the disorder have.
In most locations, children become eligible for such services in preschool or in the first years of formal schooling since research has shown that the early intervention can be key.
Interventions for Specific Learning Disabilities
A learning disability cannot be cured. However with timely intervention and support, children with learning disabilities can be successful in school. Parents and teachers are the first persons to notice that the child is finding it difficult to read, write or learn. If you think that your child may have a learning disability, seek help from a mental health expert or other trained specialists for the required intervention program or therapy.
Note: Early detection can help the child benefit from treatment or therapy. Neglecting the condition may affect the child’s ability to cope with the condition.
If your child has a learning disorder, your child’s doctor or school might recommend:
- Extra help: A reading specialist or other trained professional can teach your child techniques to improve his or her academic skills. Tutors can also teach children organizational and study skills.
- Individualized Education Program (IEP): Your child’s school or a special educator might develop an IEP that will describe how a child can best learn in school.
- Therapy: Depending on the learning disorder, some children might benefit from therapy. For example, speech therapy can help children who have language disabilities. Occupational therapy might help improve the motor skills of a child who has writing problems.
- Complimentary/alternative therapy: Research shows that alternative therapies like music, art, dance can benefit children with learning disabilities.
Parents and experts need to set goals and assess if the child is improving with the selected mode of intervention and support. If not, alternative methods can be chosen to help the child.
Below are just a few examples of ways educators help children with specific learning disabilities.
For children that have specific language disorder with impairment in reading:
- Special teaching techniques. These can include helping a child learn through multisensory experiences and by providing immediate feedback to strengthen a child’s ability to recognize words.
- Classroom modifications. For example, teachers can give students that need it, extra time to finish tasks and provide recorded tests that allow the child to hear the questions instead of reading them.
- Use of technology. Children with impairment in reading may benefit from listening to books on tape or using word-processing programs with spell-check features.
For children that have specific language disorder with impairment in written expression:
- Special tools. Teachers can offer oral exams, provide a note-taker, and/or allow the child to videotape reports instead of writing them.
- Use of technology. A child can be taught to use word-processing programs or an audio recorder instead of writing by hand.
- Other ways of reducing the need for writing. Teachers can provide notes, outlines, and preprinted study sheets.
For children that have specific language disorder with impairment in mathematics:
- Visual techniques. For example, teachers can draw pictures of word problems and show the student how to use colored pencils to differentiate parts of problems.
- Use of memory aids. Rhymes and music are among the techniques that can be used to help a child remember math concepts.
- Use of computers. A child can use a computer for math drills and practice.
A child with specific learning disorder may struggle with low self-esteem, frustration, and other problems. Mental health professionals, including school counselors or psychologists, can help the child understand these feelings, develop coping tools, and build healthy relationships. Children with specific learning disorder sometimes have other conditions such as ADHD or Anxiety Disorders. These conditions require their own treatments, which may include psychotherapy and medications.