Learning disabilities come in many forms--dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia are some of the major disorders but there are also many individuals with learning difficulties that are not well defined. In addition, the challenges faced by individuals with learning disabilities go beyond just school and can impact these individuals in sports, activities and jobs--anywhere that requires them to follow directions or process information under demand. This is because many individuals with learning difficulties are experiencing poor processing of information. Instructions and communications are easily misunderstood or take time to comprehend, remembering salient points or specific details is challenging or impossible, situations that require rapid and accurate processing--such as reading aloud--cause stress and anxiety. Improving processing speed and accuracy may not fully heal all aspects of a learning disability but can dramatically improve a learner’s ability to use the abilities they have in and out of school.
Children with learning disabilities are often struggling long before their problems have been fully identified. They may be struggling to learn but outwardly displaying avoidant behaviors that can be misinterpreted as defiance or apathy. All children want to succeed; therefore, if a child is overly resistant to learning a subject or is displaying behaviors including “spacing out” or acting like the “class clown,” he or she may be struggling with an underlying difficulty to learn. Other common characteristics of children with learning disabilities include poor sportsmanship (e.g., sore loser), social leadership (e.g., talkative and outgoing, in charge of peers, bossy, etc.), quiet/withdrawn, appearing lost when listening, or disorganized.
PreTeen and Teen Learners
Middle school and high school years can be very challenging for individuals with learning difficulties, even if they have been diagnosed and are receiving supports at school. They may experience insecurities or anxiety about being different or think that they are unintelligent. In addition, teenagers will often display avoidant behaviors during class (e.g., not doing homework, fatiguing in class, not participating), which can lead to misunderstandings with teachers. It is imperative to remember that the individual with learning difficulties is always working harder to process information. That means that, even if they can accomplish a task or succeed at a project one time, they may not be able to display the same level of ability the next time and will need consistent support and encouragement.
Adults with Learning Disabilities
The challenges faced by individuals with learning disabilities do not end when they have finished school. Workplace challenges can persist and, unlike school, these individuals are not typically given supports or accomodations. Attending meetings, summarizing materials, following instructions and writing reports can all be difficult tasks. Statistics show that only 46% of adults with LD are employed as compared with 71% of adults without LD. Luckily, improving processing abilities can be done at any age and will directly improve even an adult’s ability to process the information they need in order to succeed at a job.