In a recent survey by the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), nearly everyone asked had heard of dyslexia. But only one-third knew about other learning disabilities (LD). And more than half of the people surveyed incorrectly think that wearing glasses can treat certain learning disabilities. Here are nine other facts that might surprise you.
1. There are no medical tests to diagnose LD. Researchers are beginning to learn the role of genetics in learning disabilities. But there’s no blood test or brain scan that can that can tell you if your child has one.
Identifying LD is a complex process. It should start with having a doctor rule out vision, hearing or developmental issues that can hide an underlying LD. Then you’ll work with your child, his teachers and the school to observe and collect information about your child’s learning and performance. Finally, qualified professionals will do testing, verify the information gathered and learn how your child processes information.
2. ADHD is not a learning disability. However, ADHD can interfere with learning. And experts estimate that one-third to one-half of individuals with LD also have ADHD.
3. Issues with vision, hearing or motor skills are not learning disabilities. That’s not to say these issues don’t affect learning—they can. And kids with LD may have trouble with some of these issues. This might seem confusing. But the key is to have doctors and educators sort out the primary cause of those symptoms. In some cases, a medical condition (such as poor vision or hearing) is the cause. In other cases, it’s LD.
4. Medication doesn’t “cure” ADHD. Medication can be helpful for many kids with ADHD. But it isn’t a cure. Medication combined with other therapies is often the most effective treatment for ADHD. Tutoring, coaching and counseling can help kids learn practical skills (such as organizing homework) and improve their focus and attention. Medication can help them succeed in those efforts.
5. There are no medical treatments for LD. There are, however, other ways to help kids with LD. Examples are instructional interventions, assistive technology and accommodations. If you hear about a medical “therapy” to treat LD, be cautious. But keep in mind that some kids who have ADHD may benefit from medication that addresses their ADHD symptoms.
6. Learning disabilities and ADHD run in families. A child with ADHD, for example, has about a one in four chance of having a sibling or parent with ADHD. And many siblings of kids with dyslexia have similar issues with reading.
7. LD is not the same as an intellectual disability. More than four out of 10 people surveyed by NCLD think that learning disabilities are correlated with IQ. The truth is that most kids with LD have average or above-average intelligence.
8. A disproportionate number of boys are identified with LD compared to girls. Only half of all public school students are boys, yet two-thirds of the students receiving special education services for LD are boys. The reasons for this gender gap aren’t clear, but it’s consistent across all racial and ethnic groups.
9. LD isn’t caused by the environment in which kids are raised. Surprisingly, most of the people surveyed believe environment does cause LD—and four in 10 teachers do, too!
These surprising facts are more than just interesting trivia. They’re things to keep in mind as you consider ways to help your child. It can be difficult to face the reality of your child’s struggles. But the more you learn about the issues, the better you can support and advocate for your child.