“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it” – Picasso.
Man is an intelligent species, its key differentiator from others being the ability and willingness to learn lifelong. This trait has been the foundation for his evolution from the nomadic Neanderthals to the Industrial Revolution experts. Armed with an innate curiosity since the moment he is born – he is put through a test of learning – be it new skills, new attitudes or reactions to social pressures. Everything is a learned behavior and expectations on learning are also very well documented as per the life stage. These levels have been defined as per the intellectual capacity of most children at a particular age.
What is learning?
In fact, learning is defined as a “permanent” change in behavior brought about by the acquisition of skills and knowledge through experience, instruction or study.
Different theories of psychology have outlined different learning styles –
- Visual: learning through seeing and imagery
- Audio: Learning by listening and
- Kinesthetic: Learning by doing or experience
Most of human beings are best at learning through a particular style; hence, learning should be “customized” to the grasping mechanism.
What is a Learning Disability?
A deviation in the pace and level of learning is categorized as a learning disability. Typically, these are first noticed in children as minor inabilities to perform tasks that the peers can complete easily. The cause of origin is generally a problem in the brain’s communication and sensory connections. Hence, a child with a disability may exhibit a high IQ, but still be unable to perform the task at hand. This outlines the difficulty in diagnosis of these developmental disorders. The deficiency can be of three types:
- Speech disorders
- Academic skills
- Non-academic skills such as coordination, memory etc.
How do I assess a Learning Disability?
The first step towards identifying learning disabilities is close observation by the parent / guardian and positive comparison with similar aged children – realization that a problem exist starts there. Thereafter, it is important to get a professional evaluation of the child’s ability in different skills areas. Standardized educational assessments are designed by education associations to arrive at a conclusive diagnosis. The following criteria are assessed:
- Review of historical data such as family history, injury history etc.
- Intellectual functioning through IQ: A commonly used test is the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children
- Specific Skill areas: Reading vocabulary and comprehension, Spelling recognition, writing skills
The test used should be both validated and reliable to provide numeric scores and percentiles that are then compared to the expected levels to identify deviations.
Support through Personal Learning Plans
Many government organizations provide free support especially in public schools in the form of individual development plans (IDP) for children with learning disabilities. Basis the assessment outcome, special needs are outlined and administered through trained professionals and counselors with personal attention. This resolved around the child’s strengths and inherent gifts. An offset of difficulty with learning is the emotional impact. Frustration might set in due to the inability to perform tasks that are seemingly simple for peers. This negative feeling may further exacerbate the child’s ability to perform. Hence, reconstruction of self-esteem and efficacy is essential to enable the person to get back his or her abilities. This, of course should be combined with the personal traits of the person for successful outcomes – a strong desire to succeed, acceptance of the program, understanding of one’s strength and weakness and action orientation to resolve it. Active intervention coupled with the right attitude has in fact helped many children and adults emerge as successful individuals who have excelled in their fields.
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