Learning Disabilities 101

November 6, 2010

I remember a few years ago when it was revealed to the public that Fantasia (the singer) had difficulty with reading.  There was a lot of misinformation floating around and suggestions that this was somehow her fault and she needed only to practice reading more to rectify the problem. 

Okay, I do not know why this isn’t more common knowledge in our “information age”, but some people are just not hardwired to read.  Their brains aren’t able to organize and make good sense of what they see on a page.

Furthermore, because I do so many evaluations to determine learning disabilities, I will add that this issue is not one related to ethnic background or privilege.

I worked in a school for children with learning disabilities and a great many had this problem.  In every other way they were normal and in some cases obviously very bright, but they were unable to read.  (Another huge misconception is that if you are unable to read you are not bright.  So Wrong!)

The lack of understanding among many about this issue was a source of great stress for many children as they often find themselves misunderstood or even labeled as “stupid” .  It is a tremendous burden for these kids.

Nonetheless, many of the children find their way, employing their strengths to make up for their weaknesses. In fact, because children with a reading disorder or other learning disabilities (there are many) face obstacles in terms of learning in “traditional” ways,  in other areas they can become more flexible thinkers and people who are creative or think outside the box.

It helps to know that many people familiar to you  in the media or through history identify/identified themselves as having a learning disability.  Some include:  Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Wintson Churchill, Albert Einstein, Mozart, and Dr. Cox from the tv show, Scrubs (I forget his real name, sorry).  See the following link for a comprehensive list:  http://www.buzzle.com/articles/famous-people-with-learning disabilities.html.

So What is A Learning Disability?

Having a Learning Disability may involve difficulty in memorizing and retaining things, and with retrieval and presentation of retained information.  There are four main forms of Learning Disabilities associated with four stages of information processing:

INPUT

ASSIMILATION

RETENTION

OUTPUT

With care and support, children with Learning Disabilities can go on to have fulfilling lives.  I did.  Yes me.  I didn’t have any problems reading or writing (in fact, I was well above average in terms of those things) but I certainly have a speech processing issue on the OUTPUT end.  There is an enormous discrepancy between my ability on the INPUT end verses my ability on the OUTPUT end with regard to speech production.   You learn to maximize your strengths.  For instance, it’s easier for me to write than give speeches.  I used to think it was stage fright but I understand that it is a speech processing issue that runs in my family.

Teach your children to know their strengths are and support them around any weaknesses.

A Good Resource Site:  http://www.ncld.org/

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2 Responses to “Learning Disabilities 101”

  1. lisa downing said

    Thanks for making this information readily accessible Dr. Kim as you know this is one of my issues. As a society we need to start understanding and accepting one another based upon our strengths not based upon what people do not have. You will derive much more from the person as well as your interactions with them.

    I can go on….but i will not

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