Understanding Which Type of Learning Disability You Have Can Make a Difference
What is a Learning Disability?
A learning disability is an information-processing disorder that affects a person’s ability to learn certain skills. A specific learning disability is the correct term under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and is one of the 13 types of disabilities listed under the law. A specific learning disability affects a person’s reading, writing, or mathematics. Within the category of specific learning disability, there are three main learning disability types: dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia.
Dysgraphia is a specific learning disability characterized by difficulty in writing. Dysgraphia can present itself in a variety of different ways based on the individual. For example, some people with dysgraphia have trouble with the physical act of writing, while others have trouble putting their thoughts into words.
Usually, dysgraphia presents itself when a child is first learning to write. However, it can present itself later, especially if a person has experienced a head injury or brain trauma. Dysgraphia is more common among males and those with autism or attention deficit disorder.
Common signs of dysgraphia are trouble spelling, slow writing speed (for one’s age), difficulty forming letters, difficulty holding a writing utensil, skipping words in a sentence, writing words in an incorrect order, and more. While experts don’t know exactly what causes dysgraphia, some interventions can help those with dysgraphia overcome the challenges it brings.
Management of dysgraphia largely depends on the specific deficits that the person with dysgraphia is experiencing. For example, if a child is having trouble with the motor skills required to write, building muscle strength through yoga, hand strengthening, and other activities will help. Adaptive writing tools, such as pencil grips, can help children hold writing utensils more effectively.
Occupational therapists are experts that can help build a plan to help children manage dysgraphia, especially if they are showing physical limitations. If a person with dysgraphia is experiencing trouble forming connections between their thoughts and putting words on a page, assistive technology, such as speech-to-text programs, can help improve their writing skills by breaking the barrier of having to physically write or type.
If a student is struggling in school because of dysgraphia, in addition to occupational therapists, teachers, and speech pathologists can help provide accommodations, modifications, and additional support to help the student overcome these challenges.
Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability characterized by difficulty in learning mathematics. Like dysgraphia, symptoms of dyscalculia vary between people, but most people with dysgraphia can be broadly categorized as having a “poor number sense.” Some signs of dyscalculia can show in young children, such as preschoolers, who have difficulty grasping concepts such as “big” and “small,” counting, and speed or distance.
Dyscalculia can affect adults by causing problems when cooking, driving, or other general life skills that involve basic math concepts. Of course, dyscalculia can also be seen when students take more complex math courses, such as algebra or geometry, as they have trouble understanding the logic behind math concepts. While it is hard to determine what causes dyscalculia, and there is no cure, there are ways to manage this learning disability.
Educators have a variety of tools in their toolbox to help students who struggle with dyscalculia. Since numbers are often too abstract for those with dyscalculia to understand, discussing the problem and making it more real-life can help students visualize and understand the relationship between the numbers and concepts.
Using physical objects, drawing out the problem, and breaking down each task into small steps can help students increase their understanding. Assistive tools, such as a calculator, charts, and diagrams, can also help.
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability characterized by difficulty in reading. Dyslexia signs vary significantly among individuals, but some common signs are difficulty in spelling, slow reading and writing, reading fluency, and poor reading comprehension.
Signs of dyslexia can begin as early as preschool, with common early signs being mispronunciation of words, talking about an event in an illogical order, and having a hard time following along with songs. People with dyslexia of all ages often have difficulty focusing while reading and experience anxiety when reading, especially aloud in front of others.
Around 5-10% of people experience dyslexia to some degree. Like dysgraphia and dyscalculia, experts don’t know exactly what causes dyslexia, and while there is no cure for it, there are many ways to help children and adults.
There are many tools available, both inside and outside of the classrooms, that will help those who struggle with dyslexia. Speech-to-text technology is a popular choice for those who have dyslexia, as they can listen to a text while following along, eliminating pronunciation errors and aiding in reading comprehension.
Guided reading strips are helpful, especially for younger readers, as it allows them to focus on a few words with less distraction between different lines. Scanning pens are also available, which are helpful when reading hardcopies, as they will scan the text, read the words aloud, and give definitions of selected words.
Disability benefits are a vital form of financial assistance provided to individuals who can't work due to a physical or mental impairment. These benefits aim to provide support and alleviate some of the financial burdens faced by disabled individuals and their families. In the United States, disability benefits are provided through two primary programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is designed for individuals who have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a certain period while SSI is a needs-based program for disabled individuals with limited income and resources.
The goal is to ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to essential resources and opportunities, enabling them to lead fulfilling lives and participate in society to the best of their abilities. Disability benefits are crucial in promoting inclusivity, dignity and a more equitable society for people with disabilities.