Learning disorders: Know the signs, how to help
Learning disorders can make it hard for a child to read, write or do simple math. Understand the signs and what you can do.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Many children who have learning disorders, also known as learning disabilities, struggle for a long time before being diagnosed. This can affect a child's self-esteem and motivation. Understand how to recognize signs that might signal learning disorders and what you can do to help your child.
What are some common types of learning disorders?
A learning disorder is a disorder that affects a person's ability to acquire and use academic skills, such as reading and calculating. Learning disorders aren't the same as mental or physical disabilities, and don't reflect a child's intelligence. Instead, learning disorders affect a child's ability to complete a task or use certain skills, particularly in school.
The most common learning disorders include:
- Dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning disorder characterized by difficulty reading, spelling and recalling known words.
- Dyscalculia. Dyscalculia is a learning disorder related to math concepts. Signs include difficulty solving even simple math problems or sequencing information or events.
- Nonverbal learning disability. This learning disorder is characterized by difficulty with nonverbal cues, such as coordination and body language.
- Dysgraphia. Dysgraphia is a learning disorder characterized by difficulty with handwriting, spelling, and thinking and writing at the same time.
Some children might have more than one learning disorder.
What causes learning disorders?
Factors that might influence the development of learning disorders include:
Feb. 10, 2016
- Genetics. Some learning disorders, such as reading and math disorders, are hereditary.
- Medical conditions. Poor growth in the uterus (severe intrauterine growth restriction), exposure to alcohol or drugs before being born, and very-low birthweight are risk factors that have been linked with learning disorders. Head injuries might also play a role in the development of learning disorders.
- Environmental exposure. Exposure to high levels of lead has been linked to an increased risk of learning disorders.
See more In-depth
- Dyscalculia. Learning Disabilities Association of America. http://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/dyscalculia/. Accessed Dec. 23, 2015.
- Kliegman RM, et al. Neurodevelopmental function and dysfunction in the school-age child. In: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 23, 2015.
- Stein DS, et al. Developmental and behavioral disorders through the life span. Pediatrics. 2011;128:364.
- Joint technical report — Learning disabilities, dyslexia, and vision. Pediatrics. 2011;127:e818.
- Lagae L. Learning disabilities: Definitions, epidemiology, diagnosis, and intervention strategies. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 2008;55:1259.
- Galicia-Connolly EZ, et al. Complementary, holistic, and integrative medicine: Therapies for learning disabilities. Pediatrics In Review. 2011;32:e18.
- Non-verbal learning disorders. Learning Disabilities Association of America. http://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/non-verbal-learning-disabilities/. Accessed Dec. 23, 2015.
- Children with learning disorders. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Children-With-Learning-Disorders-016.aspx. Accessed Dec. 23, 2015.
- New to LD. Learning Disabilities Association of America. http://ldaamerica.org/support/new-to-ld/#seeingsigns. Accessed Dec. 23, 2015.
- Dyslexia. Learning Disabilities Association of America. http://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/. Accessed Dec. 23, 2015.
- A guide to the individualized education program. U.S. Department of Education. http://www2.ed.gov/parents/needs/speced/iepguide/index.html. Accessed Jan. 27, 2016.
- Dysgraphia. Learning Disabilities Association of America. http://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/dysgraphia/. Accessed Jan. 27, 2016.