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Chantal McAllister

on 27 July 2016

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Learning difficulty
is a term used to describe any one of a number of barriers to learning that a child may experience. It is a broad term that covers a wide range of needs and problems, including dyslexia and behavioural problems, and the full range of ability.
Most people with a learning difficulty have only a mild disability that simply means they need more help than most to learn new skills.
Difficulty means:
Strictly speaking, 'learning difficulties' should be more
appropriately applied to people experiencing specific educational
problems, which of course may be transient and eventually overcome.
Gifted or exceptional children are sometimes described as having a
learning difficulty, as are dyslexic children. People with borderline
or mild intellectual disability appear to be also more readily
described as having a learning difficulty. 2 E Twice Exceptional


The word 'difficulty' in a dictionary refers to; 'complex', 'not easy', 'laborious' 'demanding', and 'arduousness'. This does not necessarily imply an enduring state - it perhaps has the suggestion of a particular task being a heavy challenge and possibly transitional.
Learning disability
It has been argued, mostly by clinicians, that the term 'intellectual disability' is a more accurate description of the nature of the disability faced by individuals. This term finds favour in both America and Australia. In America it relates to 'a significant intellectual impairment and deficits in social functioning or adaptive behaviour (i.e. basic everyday skills) which are present from childhood'. In Australia the term varies from from state to state.
Disability means:
When examining the word 'disability', such descriptions as; 'affliction', 'ailment', 'incapacitated', 'malady', infirmity', 'weakened' and 'handicapped' can be found. Whilst these terms may appear stigmatising at first, you can begin to see the suggestion of a more personal, substantial and permanent state of impairment.
What is a learning disability?
"He has the ability, if he just tried harder, he could do it. He chooses not to do the work."
"If she would just pay attention, she would get it."
"After I give the instructions, he sits there and stares at his paper. He is not motivated."
A child with a learning disability cannot try harder, pay closer attention, or improve motivation on their own; they need help to learn how to do those things.
A learning difficulty, disability, and /or a learning disorder, are not always a problem with intelligence. Learning disorders are caused by a difference in the brain that affects how information is received, processed, or communicated.
Children and adults with learning difficulties;disabilities and / or disorder have trouble processing sensory information because they see, hear, and understand things differently.  
Is there any difference between learning disability and learning difficulty?
Yes. Confusingly the terms appear to get interchanged on many occasions but this should not be the case. Someone with a learning difficulty may not have an intellectual disability (which is an integral component of learning disability) but have specific problems that prevent them learning easily e.g. Dyslexia / Irlens.
Hope for learning disabilities and difficulties: The brain can change
Science has made great strides in understanding the inner workings of the brain, and one important discovery that brings new hope for learning disabilities and disorders is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s natural, lifelong ability to change to form new connections and generate new brain cells in response to experience and learning. This knowledge has led to groundbreaking new treatments for learning disabilities that harness the power of neuroplasticity to retrain the brain.
How does understanding the brain help with a learning disability or disorder?
Using a telephone analogy, faulty wiring in the brain disrupts normal lines of communication and makes it difficult to process information easily. If service was down in a certain area of the city the phone company might fix the problem by rewiring the connections. Similarly, under the right learning conditions, the brain has the ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. Those new connections facilitate skills like reading and writing that had been difficult using the old connections. 
What parents and great support can do:
Keep things in perspective – Try not to be intimidated by the news, that the child you support, may have a learning disability – all people learn differently. Your most important job is to support the child and to help them keep their self esteem in tact. Challenges can be overcome. Don’t let the tests, school bureaucracy and endless paperwork distract you from what is really important like – providing the child you support with emotional, educational and moral support.
Do your own research and become your own expert.Learn about new developments in learning disabilities, different programs and educational techniques that could make an impact with the child you support. As a parent,you may instinctively look to others for solutions: schools, teachers, therapists or doctors but you need to take charge when it comes to finding the tools your child needs to continue learning.
Be an advocate for your child or the child you support. You may have to speak up time and time again to get special help for your child or the child you support. Embrace your role as a proactive parent or supporter and work on your communication skills. It may be frustrating at times, but your calm, reasonable and firm voice may make the difference in achieving what you want for your child or the child you support.
Remember that your influence on your child outweighs all others – Your child will follow your lead. If you approach the learning challenges with optimism, hard work and a sense of humor, your child is likely to embrace your perspective or at least see the challenges as a detour rather than a roadblock. Also, remember that the school situation doesn’t have to be perfect. Focus your energy on learning what works and implementing it in your child’s life the best you can.
Don’t sit back and let someone else be responsible for providing your child or the child you support with the tools they need to learn. You can and should take an active role in the child’s education.
Strategies for helping individuals experiencing specific learning disabilities.
Parents, teachers, and employers should aim to provide a quiet area for learning and working that is away from distractions.
Material should be presented in small units, as individuals with learning disabilities often have difficulty with long and detailed instructions but can process and follow smaller chunks of information.
For learning disabilities affecting reading and spelling, systematic training in phonics (linking letters with sounds which has been shown to be essential to good reading) should be given to ensure that the person has a good grasp of these skills.
Where possible, workloads and time frames should be adjusted to allow individuals to read the required information at their own pace and ensure they have adequate time to spend on any written reports.
Schools and employers should allow alternative forms of presenting work. Individuals or their families can often negotiate with the school or the employer to see if other forms of reporting are possible such as verbal presentations or oral examinations.
If individuals are having problems with reading or spelling they should be encouraged to use a spell check or to have someone read through any written work.
When teaching children with learning disabilities, where possible make the tasks highly motivating by aiming them at the child's level of interest and understanding. This will promote persistence.
Avoid making negative comments such as labelling an individual as "lazy" or "stupid". Convey to the individual that you understand the difficulties and provide a supportive environment.
Individuals with learning difficulties often experience low self-esteem and so it is important to notice and reward effort and any successes, even if they are small.
Develop non-academic areas of competence, such as sports, art or music that will provide the individual with a feeling of competence and promote self-esteem.
A learning difficulty: is transitory and can be overcome with support.
A learning disability: is an impairment and is considered permanent in nature.
This is a traditional and accepted understanding, but science is reinventing what we have accepted as true.
A Learning: Difficulty - is seen as Transient
Disability - is seen as Permanent and a
Disorder - is seen a Processing problem.
Dyspraxia (Sensory Integration Disorder)
Communication disorder:
receptive /expressive language disorder
Nonverbal Learning Disability
CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder)
Visual Processing Disorder
Acquired brain injuries
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Categories of Disabilities:
Social and Emotional
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