Learning is the process of imbibing something relatively simple and progressing into understanding more complex tasks. In its essence, learning involves the integration of information using different senses.
Learning disabilities or disorders (LD) are not an issue of intelligence or zeal1. Rather, issues in learning have a neurological basis that has become the focus of research for over two decades or more. They affect the reception, assimilation or application of information and relate to the following2:
- Getting information into the brain (Input)
- Making sense of this information (Organization)
- Storing and retrieving information (Memory)
- Getting information back out (Output)
Definition and Types of Learning Disability:
According to the Rehabilitation Council of India3 (RCI), the focus on learning disorders in research and education in India is a recent development as compared to western countries. Nevertheless, strides in the assessment and management of LDs have led to the following Federal definition by the U.S. Government in Public Law 94-142 of learning disabilities to be adopted in India:
“Specific Learning Disabilities means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, speak, read, spell or to do mathematical calculation..”
An important factor to consider is that a person with a learning disorder has adequate intelligence scores. Thorough consideration must be given to the level of instruction and stimulation received. Thus, if someone who hasn’t been to school or has not been engaged appropriately has difficulties in learning material, then LD is not an obvious diagnosis. Another factor that requires attention is the sociological and cultural influences that play a part in the area of learning such as those found in a multilingual society like India.
- Dyslexia (difficulty in reading): Dyslexia involves issues in different forms of language as well as problems in reading4.
- Dysgraphia (difficulty in writing): Dysgraphia includes difficulties in copying text, or maintaining neatness, and writing appropriately for the given age group.
- Dyscalculia (difficulty in numbers and mathematical concepts): Dyscalculia involves issues in recognition and alignment of numbers, and grasping abstract material5.
- Dysnomia (difficulty in naming): Dysnomia refers to issues in finding and selecting words, attempts to use synonyms instead of the words intended to be applied, etc6.
- Dysphasia/Aphasia (expressive language difficulty): Dysphasia includes difficulties in verbal expression, and perception of what is communicated by others3.
Diagnosis and Assessment procedures:
Each of the LD’s described above have specific diagnostic criteria for each. Only a thorough and formal diagnosis done by a professional trained for the same can be considered valid. Professionals that work in the field of assessing and managing LD’s include clinical psychologists, school psychologists, child psychiatrists, educational psychologists, occupational therapists, and speech and language therapists.
Assessment for LD’s mostly includes3:
- Detailed clinical history (from child, family, teachers, etc.)
- Testing for Potential: Performance Discrepancy
- Testing Processing Abilities
Interventions for LD’s:
Intervention modalities that are often adopted include3:
- Focusing on language development
- Focusing on phonological nuances
- Focusing on multi-sensory teaching: the use of various divergent modes of learning, like for example blackboard teaching in tandem with using digital learning resources.
In addition to these interventions, special consideration is also recommended for psychological and social issues ensuing from LD’s. For example, self esteem issues, social relationship difficulties, etc.
In a multilingual and diverse educational set up such as the one in India, steps are being taken to ensure that educational policies include considerations for children with LD’s and enforce uniform schemes for their remediation. A recent development in this arena was brought through the National Curriculum Framework (2005), and initiatives under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan amongst other independent efforts by NGO’s and organizations. However, significant measures are still required and are under process both in India and worldwide.
1.Kemp, G., Smith, M., & Segal, J. (October, 2017). Learning disabilities and disorders – Types of learning disorders and their signs. Retrieved from https://helpguide.org/articles/autism-learning-disabilities/learning-disabilities-and-disorders.htm
2.Integra (2009). A handbook on learning disabilities. Retrieved from https://www.childdevelop.ca/sites/default/files/files/WAM%20LD%20handbook.pdf
3.Rehabilitation Council of India. Learning disabilities. Retrieved from http://www.rehabcouncil.nic.in/writereaddata/ld.pdf
4.National Association of Special Educators Leaning Disabilities Report (June 2011). Characteristics of children with learning disabilities. Retrieved from http://www.naset.org/fileadmin/user_upload/LD_Report/Issue__3_LD_Report_Characteristic_of_LD.pdf
5.Karanth, P. (March, 2006). Learning disabilities in the Indian context. Retrieved from http://www.nalandainstitute.org/aspfiles/ learning.asp
6.Goodwin, D. M. (1989). A dictionary of neuropsychology. New York: Springer-Verlag