One of the common problems that
children have with school performance is a specific learning disability
or learning disorders. Children with
learning disabilities usually have a normal range of intelligence,
however even though they try very hard to follow instructions,
they do not master school tasks and fall behind. Learning disabilities
affect at least 1 in 10 schoolchildren. Child and adolescent psychiatrists
point out that learning disabilities are treatable. If
not detected and treated early, however, they can have a tragic
"snowballing" effect. For instance, a child who does
not learn addition in elementary school cannot understand algebra
in high school. The child, trying very hard to learn, becomes
more and more frustrated, and develops emotional problems such
self-esteem in the face of repeated failure. Some learning
disabled children misbehave in school because they would rather
be seen as "bad" than "stupid".
Parents should be aware of the most frequent signals of learning
disabilities, when a child:
* has difficulty understanding and following instructions.
* has trouble remembering what someone just told him or her.
* fails to master reading, spelling, writing, and/or math skills,
and thus fails schoolwork.
* has difficulty distinguishing right from left; difficulty identifying
words or a tendency to reverse letters, words, or numbers; (for
example, confusing 25 with 52, "b" with "d,"
or "on" with "no").
* lacks coordination in walking, sports, or small activities such
as holding a pencil or tying a shoelace.
* easily loses or misplaces homework, schoolbooks, or other items.
* cannot understand the concept of time; is confused by "yesterday,"
Such problems deserve a comprehensive
evaluation by an expert who can assess all of the different issues
affecting the child. A child and adolescent psychiatrist can help
coordinate the evaluation, and work with school professionals
and others to have the evaluation and educational testing done
to clarify if a learning disability exists.
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