First, a specific learning disability is not an intelligence problem. Those with SLD’s can be of normal or high intelligence. SLD’s do not correlate with intelligence.
Secondly, we do not often hear these called specific learning disabilities. The more common terms are dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and a few others, which we will cover. The official term, as stated in the dsm-5, is specific learning disability. So if you do get an official diagnosis it will say something like “Specific learning disability affecting reading”. Or math. Or writing. Etc. It will not say dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, etc. Those terms are no longer officially used.
Terms like dyslexia were removed from the DSM-5 in 2012 and there’s a lot of controversy around that because removing them just seemed to confuse the issue more. But that’s a whole other topic
For our purposes, let's just use the common terms. Alright?
So, again, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, And Dysgraphia, these are not intellectual disabilities. They do not affect intelligence. But sadly these students can sometimes get lumped in with children with intellectual disabilities in school. That’s because schools have limited funding and usually have to put all of these students together if they are taken out of regular classes. That can really affect their self-esteem so you have to watch for that. It can really affect them in terrible ways.
What they are, are problems that affect specific skills. Such as reading, writing, spelling, or math.
Specific Learning Disabilities
The first, and most commonly known, is dyslexia. Or its official name—a specific learning disability in reading. But dyslexia is not just a difficulty in reading the actual words. Someone with dyslexia may have problems with comprehension or recall. They may read slower or with less accuracy. And it’s very common for dyslexia to affect spelling too. The most common underlying cause is an auditory processing problem. But there is a lot of variation on this and it is typical to have multiple underlying causes. If you want to dig deeper into this we have created a video for you titled “What is dyslexia?”
Secondly, we have dyscalculia. Or officially, a specific learning disability that affects math. Dyscalculia is probably just as common as dyslexia, but for some reason not well known. Dyscalculia also has a lot of variability. It can affect counting, pattern recognition, telling time, measurement, estimating, understanding math concepts, and with that, money concepts. So to cover that deeper we have made a video titled “What is dyscalculia?”
Then we have dysgraphia. Or officially, a specific learning disability in writing. This could mean several things. It could be really sloppy writing, which might be a fine motor skill problem. Or it could mean trouble getting their thoughts together to get them down on paper. How they organize and plan. And how they edit their writing. So really anything that falls into the writing category. And of course, we’ve done a video for you on dysgraphia called "What is Dysgraphia"
All three of these, and some of the others, are all caused by difficulties in the way we process information. In other words, our cognitive micro-skills. These are all the little skills that make up the way we receive, process, recall, and communicate information. If you want to learn more about them there’s a link right here. And if you want to get the tools to help your child improve these, then that’s exactly what the Learning Success System does.
Auditory Processing Disorder
In addition to these top three are a few more. First, there is auditory processing disorder. This is actually very similar to dyslexia and they very commonly come together. Where dyslexia is defined more as the difficulty in processing and decoding words, auditory processing disorder is more about the difficulty in processing sounds. So they might have more difficulty in the auditory discrimination area. They may have more difficulty when there is background noise. Like dyslexia, it can affect the way they speak, read, and spell. The difference between auditory processing disorder and dyslexia is a fine line and widely disputed.
Then there are the language processing disorders. These are really just a subset of auditory processing disorder. And again, very related to dyslexia.
Nonverbal Learning Disabilities
Next, there are the nonverbal learning disabilities. This is a difficulty in picking up on social cues and may also involve coordination difficulties. These will cause social problems. Kids with this disorder may have difficulty making friends or may be nervous in social situations because they are just not understanding the finer social cues. This can be caused by a weakness in the cognitive micro-skill called visual discrimination. They are just not seeing these cues because of a weakness in visual discrimination.
Executive Functioning Disorder
Also worth mentioning is executive function disorder - Which affects strategizing, impulse control, and emotional and behavioral regulation. This, of course, could be related to any of the previously mentioned problems. Get an executive function screener here.
Visual Motor Disabilities
Then there are the visual motor disabilities. This can be poor eye-hand coordination. Trouble following the line when reading. Things like that. But I bet you are already guessing that these are related to dyslexia and dysgraphia. So I wouldn’t get too hung up on this as it really falls back under these categories. It seems like there is just so much controversy about what is what that all these different categories get created. Gets confusing right?
Try not to let it. It all goes back to those cognitive micro-skills anyway. And if you work on one of the cognitive micro-skills you should work on all because they all work together. And even more importantly, because working on them together tells the brain to generalize the skill. That way the new skill can be used in many different ways. Deep analysis and diagnosis of the exact weakness is not helpful here. And usually, it’s counterproductive. So just get a general idea and then work them all. Let the amazing brain sort it out.
It’s very common for someone to have more than one of these problems. As a matter of fact, a majority do. That’s because they are all caused by one or more weaknesses in the fundamental building blocks of learning. What we call cognitive micro-skills. There are three categories of these micro-skills. Auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. And they can come in many different combinations. That’s why there is so much variety in how a learning disability affects a person. But each of these micro-skills can be strengthened. So to help your child with any of these issues, work on the micro-skills.
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