What is a learning disability?

A learning disability occurs when a person’s brain manages information in a different way than other people do, complicating and slowing down their learning.

About 4 million American adolescences have diagnosed learning disabilities, varying from mild to severe.

The most common kinds of learning disorders are:

    • Dyslexia, trouble with reading and comprehension. (Dyslexia encompasses 80% of diagnosed learning disabilities)
    • Dysgraphia, difficulty with forming and recording written thoughts.
    • Dyscalculia, a challenge with numbers and math skills.
    • Auditory Processing Disorder, a condition that makes it hard for children to translate sounds into coherent thoughts.
    • Visual Processing Disorder, difficulty translating images into meaningful information.

How could I miss my teen’s learning disability for so long?

If they have an undiagnosed learning disorder, your student has probably been using their scholastic strengths to compensate. Students often compensate by:

      • writing sloppily to cover up spelling problems
      • adopting a lazy demeanor to cover up lack of skill
      • making you believe he can do a task when he really can’t
      • memorizing information to make up for not being able to calculate or read it
      • recognizing context and patterns to get right answers
      • picking up knowledge from TV, social interaction, or other sources outside school

What are signs of a learning disability in my high school student?

Some symptoms of learning disabilities are:

        • Exaggerated difficulty, dislike, or delay in writing, reading or computing (think back to early education as well)
        • Withdrawal or “acting out”
        • Inconsistent learning
        • Disconnect between reading and comprehension OR comprehension and expression
        • Difficulty with mental fact organization (i.e., can’t remember facts or connections between facts)
        • Frustration or apathy toward school
        • Extreme disorganization or sloppy work

Of course, just because a student may be frustrated with a class or have poor handwriting, doesn’t mean they have a learning disability. But, especially if several signs are present at once, this list can help you uncover the truth.

Do I need to get my student tested and into a therapy program?

Ultimately, the only way to know for sure that your teen has a learning disorder is to get them tested. Specialist’s use an array of tests to pinpoint the kind of learning disorder that your student has, enabling you to focus on the best education and therapy options for their unique needs.

Many parents are reluctant to have their student “labeled” or prefer not to involve doctors, but that is not always the best thing for either you or your teen. Especially if your student has severe learning problems, it may be wise to seek outside help.

One significant reason to seek help sooner rather than later is that in K-12, the educational system generally takes more responsibility to diagnose and help a student with a learning disability. In college however, the burden increasingly falls on the student to document their learning disability and request an “accommodation.”

An accommodation is a term used to describe the exceptions a school may make on behalf of a student with a documented learning disability. These accommodations can include things like more time to take an exam, an alternate assignment, or someone to read questions to them. Getting tested and helped early not only maximizes the help available, but it also means your child enjoys more years of success in their learning.