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Learning Disorders

     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 as low 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," "today," "tomorrow."

     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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