Learning disabilities are vastly more common than they were 20 years ago. Researchers have attributed this to a number of possible factors, such as environmental changes in the food we eat and an increased use of electronics.
While learning disabilities are usually more associated with children, they are quite prevalent in adults as well. The Learning Disability Association of America (LDA) reports that at least 1 in 5 individuals in the United States—both children and adults—have learning and attention problems.
The Top 5 Learning Disabilities
These are the five most common learning disabilities that adults and children face today:
Dyslexia is perhaps the most common learning disability. People affected by dyslexia have difficulty reading, decoding words, and recognizing certain words. This often translates into having trouble with the key areas of learning, such as the ability to write, spell, comprehend, and ultimately, acquire knowledge.
The problems caused by dyslexia often stem from being unable to recognize the individual sounds within words. This difficulty is identified as a lack of phonemic awareness, or a certain degree of it. Affected individuals find it hard to connect speech sounds to letters. In a similar vein, dyslexia can also be characterized by difficulties with phonological processing, where people can’t differentiate between similar word sounds.
At the end of the day, there are no proven cures for dyslexia, but detecting it early and taking specific educational approaches can go a long way in helping children become competent readers. Adults with dyslexia should realize it’s okay to seek help with reading and writing, regardless of their age
Dyscalculia is used to refer to problems associated with calculation or learning math concepts. People struggling with dyscalculia might be unable to arrange numbers correctly or perform basic math calculations. They may also find it hard to understand broader concepts like algebra, measurement, and estimation.
Dyscalculia is a fairly common learning disability that affects both children and adults. It’s a neurological condition that might occur by itself, but it may also be influenced by dyslexia, ADHD, lack of a good math foundation, or even genetics.
While dyscalculia is treatable in both kids and adults, treatment may be more challenging for adults. Treating dyscalculia mostly involves undergoing special education with the help of specialists.
- Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Some might argue that ADHD is not technically a learning disability, but there’s no doubt that it can seriously affect the ability to grasp, retain, and use information. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a very common mental health condition that affects the ability to stay focused on a task or activity.
People struggling with ADHD often have impulsive behavior and unusual levels of hyperactivity. They may easily get distracted compared to other people and could find it hard to sit still for long periods of time. The consequences of having ADHD vary, but the most common issues include being disorganized, making frequent mistakes, and losing items.
While most learning disabilities require special educational instruction, ADHD can be treated with medications and behavioral therapy.
People with dysgraphia have a hard time turning their thoughts into written or graphic form. They may have issues with spelling, grammar, memory retention, organizing their thoughts coherently, or performing the physical act of writing.
Like reading disabilities, dysgraphia can also be quite hard to overcome. It generally develops in the early stages of childhood, when children are just learning to write. However, it could also occur in late childhood or adulthood as a result of head or brain trauma.
There are no medications for dysgraphia, but it can be managed with special educational intervention.
- Non-Verbal Learning Disorder
Non-verbal learning disorder (NVLD) is a learning disability that refers to difficulties in understanding non-verbal behavior and social cues. Children with NVLD are usually able to write or read well, but they could have trouble with reading, solving math problems, and understanding abstract concepts.
Signs of NVLD include social awkwardness and physical clumsiness. People struggling with it may also need to verbalize things to understand them.
Like several learning disabilities, there is no cure for NVLD, but it can be treated with special educational intervention and therapy.
How to treat learning disabilities
Learning disabilities are best treated at an early stage, which means spotting them as early as possible in childhood. As an educational consultant who advocates for humanitarian causes and people with disabilities, I sometimes encounter parents who respond to these cases with frustration and fear. These are non-helpful ways to react if your child has a learning disability.
Individuals who grow up with LDs often develop self-esteem issues and may be prone to anxiety and depression. As a parent, you should accept the difficulties such children face early on and provide special educational accommodations for them. This will go a long way in helping them cope with their disability.