Definition of Learning Disabilities

Although the definition of learning disabilities may vary from source to source, there is one common thread that may be surprising to many people. Contrary to popular belief, people with learning disabilities are not "dumb" or "lazy", but in fact have normal to high intelligence.

The difficulties seem to stem from the brain's attempt at processing information.

Let's look at a couple of definitions of learning disabilities from respected sources

Learning Disabilities Defined

The Merriam Webster dictionary describes a learning disability as the following: (1966)

"any of various conditions (as dyslexia) that interfere with an individual's ability to learn and so result in impaired functioning in language, reasoning, or academic skills and that are thought to be caused by difficulties in processing and integrating information"

Our nation's special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), defines a specific learning disability as . . .

". . . a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia." However, learning disabilities do not include, "...learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage." 34 Code of Federal Regulations §300.7(c)(10)

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Most of us are familiar with the above phrase: "Work smarter, not harder."

Well, in the case of most children with learning disabilities, the opposite is true. They work harder, typically, than most other children. But the "smarter" part seems elusive, and this can be very discouraging.

Left unaddressed, learning problems can lead to low self-esteem, attitude problems, acting out behaviors, and eventually may nosedive towards an "I don't care" attitude about school and learning in general.

This may display in numerous ways, depending on the personality of the child. You might begin to notice a "class clown", a resident "playground bully", or a unengaged "wallflower" - a child who refuses to participate in class discussion for fear of saying the wrong thing.

Regardless of the chosen definition of learning disabilities or the resulting behaviors, it is essential that proper testing be given to determine the scope and extent of learning problems so that the root issues can be addressed.

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