Taking Charge of Your Health

DSM-5, or the diagnostic and statistical manual
5th edition, defines specific learning disorders as a set of disorders that relate to having
difficulty learning and developing certain skills for at least 6 months. There’s dyslexia – difficulty with reading,
dysgraphia – difficulty with writing, and dyscalculia – difficulty with mathematics. People can have difficulty with just one of
those facets, but they can also show symptoms that span all three. They are considered “specific” learning
disorders because they don’t stem from another condition like an intellectual disorder or
a global developmental delay and aren’t due to an obvious environmental cause like
not being taught how to read, write, or do math. Learning disorders are usually diagnosed during
the school-aged years, when a child’s skill can be assessed and falls below what he or
she should be able to do at a certain age. Dyslexia affects both oral and written communication
throughout an individual’s life. Individuals often have trouble identifying
letters or words, and that can results in slow, inaccurate, and effortful reading. This often becomes obvious when a person with
dyslexia is reading aloud- because they might have to hesitate or guess at words, and they
might end up reading without normal intonation or expression. Dyslexia can also cause difficulty with spelling-
because a person might add or omit letters by mistake. All of this effort with reading, means that
individuals might also have a hard time understanding what they’ve read- sometimes missing the
deeper meaning of a passage, forgetting the correct sequence of events, or being unable
to make inferences about what they’ve read. Dysgraphia describes having trouble with writing
– specifically poor spelling and difficulty with grammar. Oftentimes, they have poor handwriting, even
though they don’t have trouble with other fine motor skills – like using tweezers for
instance. They might mix print and cursive writing,
or might misuse upper and lowercase letters, and as a result, their writing is often slow
and labored, causing them to get writing fatigue. Dysgraphia can also involve more global writing
problems like having difficulty putting thoughts down on paper, or thinking and writing at
the same time, which as you might guess, leads to writing that lacks clarity and cohesion. Finally, there’s dyscalculia where individuals
have a poor understanding of numbers – such as their magnitude and their relationship
to one another. The most common problem is with “number
sense.” This is an intuitive understanding of how
numbers work, and how to compare and estimate quantities on a number line. They often struggle to memorize math facts-
like formulas and equations, which makes it very hard for them to manipulate numbers and
solve math problems. In general, these individuals struggle to
follow mathematical reasoning- misunderstanding the logic behind the steps and therefore having
to rely heavily on rote memory. Over time, the difficulty can cause related
problems like not being able to easily measure out ingredients for a recipe or feeling comfortable
reading graphs and charts. One important thing to keep in mind for all
of these learning disorders is that they are not due to a lack of intelligence or desire
to learn; and with appropriate teaching methods, individuals can master all of these skills. Individuals with learning disorders often
benefit from small modification to the normal instruction that takes their disability into
account. For example, individuals with mind or moderate
learning disabilities might benefit from untimed tests, oral testing, or other alternatives
to written assignments like video reports. Individuals with dyslexia might also benefit
from having text printed in a specific font while individuals with dysgraphia often benefit
from wide-ruled paper or certain pencil grips. For dyscalculia, playing math-based games
and using physical objects that relate to the real world like using buttons in place
of numbers can help to develop and cultivate a more intuitive feel for numbers. In most of these situations, individuals might
benefit from having extra time to practice specific skills or with one-on-one tutoring. To recap: Specific learning disorders are
a group of disorders that include difficulty with reading, writing, and mathematics, called
dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia, respectively. They are often diagnosed in the early school-years,
and are not due to a lack of intelligence or desire to learn, but they can be improved
with the use of specific teaching interventions. Thanks for watching, you can help support
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