- What is a learning difficulty?
- What are the most common learning difficulties?
- How do I know if my child has a learning difficulty?
- How can I best support my child who has a learning difficulty?
- Can you overcome learning difficulties in children?
One of the scariest and most common challenges that parents face is having a child with a learning difficulty. From the moment that you begin to suspect that your child has a learning difficulty to the moment they are officially diagnosed, the journey can be turbulent and stressful.
As well as all of this, there is the prospect of having to support them throughout their education to make sure that they are not disadvantaged as a result of their learning difficulty.
What is a learning difficulty?
Some people use the term learning difficulty whereas others use the term learning disability or learning disorder. At GoStudent, we like to see it as neurodiversity. Everyone’s brain is unique, and some people’s brains work in different ways to what society perceives to be ‘the norm’.
But what exactly is a learning difficulty? A learning difficulty is when someone’s brain processes information in a different way to ‘the norm’. Having a learning difference can affect your ability to learn spelling, reading, writing or mathematics – especially when those skills are conventionally taught in schools in a way which is designed around the neurotypical brain.
There are lots of learning disabilities in children and many are often diagnosed with Dyslexia, ADHD, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, or Processing Deficit. It is important for us to emphasise that there is nothing wrong with a child or adult having any of these conditions.
Contrary to popular views from the 80s, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with any of these conditions. A person with a learning difference is not stupid and, equally, a person with a learning disability is not lazy. Their brains just operate in a different way than most people are used to. In the same way that they might struggle with some things which most people see as simple, they might excel in other areas that the rest of society sees as a challenge.
As the well-known quote from Albert Einstein (that famous scientist with dyslexia) goes, ‘if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid’.
What are the most common learning disabilities?
Whilst there are countless different types of learning disabilities and learning difficulties in children (not to mention those which have yet to be officially discovered), there are a few common ones which keep cropping up again and again – these are the ones which are most likely to be diagnosed. We have created a learning disabilities list in which we can talk you through some of the more common learning difficulties in children.
If you say ‘learning difficulties in children’, most people will think of dyslexia. Dyslexia is the most well-known and one of the most common learning disabilities. It is estimated that a staggering 1 in 10 people have dyslexia! As with most conditions, Dyslexia can affect different people in different ways depending on the type and severity of dyslexia that they have – no two brains with dyslexia are the same.
Kids with learning disabilities such as dyslexia are more likely to struggle with certain elements of their learning; for example, dyslexia can cause difficulty with reading, writing, spelling, and, in some cases, even mathematics. Despite the problems which dyslexia might pose, there are many different ways to support a child with dyslexia.
People with dyslexia go on to all sorts of different jobs from teaching to politics – many of the world’s best and brightest minds have been dyslexic ones.
If you want to know more, you can read our GoStudent guide on supporting children with dyslexia.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition where someone might suffer from inattentiveness, hyperactivity or impulsiveness. ADHD can make it difficult for a child to get into the right mindset for learning and can also prevent them from being able to concentrate – even when they want to.
Because of the symptoms of ADHD, less informed people might just assume that a child is misbehaving. Sadly, children with learning disabilities in school (such as ADHD) are more likely to get into trouble for misbehaving. This is because the symptoms of ADHD can cause noise and clamour in lessons which some teachers and parents see as a disruption to the learning of the other children in the class.
It is really important that your child’s school is aware of the various different learning difficulties in children and that they are supportive of your child’s individual case – whatever it may be.
If you want to know more about spotting the top eight signs that your child has ADHD, you can read our GoStudent guide for spotting the early signs of ADHD.
It is estimated that up to 6% of people have dyscalculia. But what exactly is dyscalculia? Dyscalculia is not the same as dyslexia, although some people like to call it ‘maths dyslexia’. People with dyscalculia are more likely to jumble up numbers in their head and consequently struggle with elements of maths – specifically:
- Remembering numbers
- Translating numbers to words (i.e. ‘eleven’ to ‘11’)
- Understanding mathematical symbols (+, -, x, ÷)
- Calculating change/counting money
- Telling the time
If you would like to learn more about dyscalculia, you can read the GoStudent guide to overcoming dyscalculia.
Dysgraphia is when someone’s brain is wired in a way which adds challenges when learning how to write – they might not have a problem thinking of what to write, but the actual action of making the letters with a pen can be a painstaking challenge. Naturally, this challenge can lead to frustration which can prevent a child from being able to engage with their work in the same way as their peers.
Here are some of the common problems which a learner with dysgraphia might have:
- Formation of clear letters
- Using a pen or pencil
- Writing grammatically correct sentences
- Spelling words correctly (often there are missing letters)
- Keeping their writing on a straight line
- Placing the correct amount of space between letters
If you would like to know more about dysgraphia, you can read the GoStudent guide on how to spot dysgraphia in children.
A processing deficit is when a learner struggles to process the information which they are receiving. This means that – depending on the type of processing deficit that they have – when they see, hear or feel something, their brain isn’t quite sure how to respond.
There are three main kinds of processing deficits:
- Auditory processing deficit
- Visual processing deficit
- Sensory processing deficit
A processing deficit can be incredibly frustrating for a person who has one. Your job, as the supporting adult in their life, is to offer them as much support as they need and to come up with strategies to help them manage their symptoms and succeed in their studies.
How do I know if my child has a learning difficulty?
Understanding learning disabilities is the best way to spot them. If you are familiar with learning disability symptoms, you are more likely to be able to detect whether your child has a learning difference such as dyslexia, ADHD, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, or any form of a processing deficit. If you know what signs to look out for, you are more likely to spot them sooner. The sooner you know about your child’s learning difference, the sooner you can take action to help them manage their learning difficulties symptoms.
Many parents do not spot their child’s learning differences as it can be quite hard to do so. In many cases, it is the school teachers who notice that the child is not progressing with their learning in the way that the rest of their peers are.
There are many cases where teachers in either primary or secondary schools spot the signs of a learning difference – some signs can be harder to spot as they only begin to show as a child’s learning develops beyond a certain point.
How can I best support my child who has a learning difficulty?
Know your stuff
The best way you can support your child is by helping them to realise that there is nothing wrong with having a learning difference and that, whilst that learning difference will pose some problems, they are still able to succeed in life in many different areas. Empowering a child with a disability is one of the most important ways in which we can support them.
Help them manage their symptoms
It is important to help a child develop strategies to help them manage the symptoms of their learning condition. For example, if your child has dyslexia, then you might want to teach them more creative ways of learning how to spell or apply grammar. If your child has ADHD, you might find strategies which they can incorporate to help them calm down; for example, getting up regularly to stretch your legs can really help someone with ADHD be less fidgety – especially in long classes.
Give them some extra support
Sadly, whilst most schools try their best to understand learning difficulties in children and support kids with learning disabilities, they often don’t have the budget to do it properly. As such, many parents chose to give their children extra tutelage at home. Not all parents have the knowledge, time or expertise to teach their children, so many choose to use private tutoring.
At GoStudent we have a team of dedicated and qualified tutors who can support your child and help them overcome their learning difficulty symptoms.
Can you overcome learning difficulties in children?
This is a difficult question to answer; however, at GoStudent we believe in trying. Every child with a learning disability has the potential to succeed in some capacity or other. The most damaging thing for a child’s success is defeatism: from either the child or their family. If we have a defeatist attitude we will struggle to reach our potential; however, with a positive can-do attitude we at GoStudent believe that everyone is able to make progress towards reaching their potential.
Your child might not be able to overcome their difficulties – not everyone can. However, they can certainly make progress and development in a positive and empowering way which will allow them to go on to become lifelong learners with a higher potential.
We hope that you have found this article about learning difficulties in children useful. Read through our blog to find out more about our top tips on issues ranging from how to help your child build social skills to what to do if your child is refusing to go to school.
You can also book a free trial session on our website if you want to give 1:1 tutoring a go!