Pediatricians help identify learning disabilities in children

As many as 20% of people in the United States have a learning disability and in 2007, an estimated 2.7 million children aged 6 to 11 years were affected. Learning disabilities often prevent children from reaching their full potential. They can have difficulty learning to listen, speak, read, spell, write, reason, concentrate, solve mathematical problems, and organize information. They may also experience difficulty mastering social skills or motor coordination.

Learning difficulties are frequently associated with and complicated by attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). For affected children, learning difficulties are not merely a source of frustration. Left untreated, these children may develop low self-confidence, poor self-esteem, and have increased risk of developing psychological and emotional problems.

Learning disabilities are complex problems with complex etiologies that are not yet fully understood. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities, including reading disabilities and dyslexia, frequently go undetected, misdiagnosed, or mistreated in children. Sadly, even in cases where learning disabilities are recognized, most children have already been experiencing years of academic difficulty in elementary school.

However research in brain function and learning has shown that learning and attention challenges can be permanently corrected. The American Academy of Pediatrics policy states that “early recognition and referral to qualified professionals for evidence-based evaluations and treatments are necessary to achieve the best possible outcome.”
Family Physicians  identify learning disabilities
The role of the child’s physician in identifying and managing a learning disability is one of vigilance and support. The child’s parents and educators may not fully recognize the symptoms of a learning disability in their children and it may be the child’s pediatrician that is first to suspect and inform parents of available resources for assistance. Some parents may already suspect that their child may harbor a learning disability and turn to the child’s physician for guidance. In any case, the child’s physician is an important partner with the family and educators in the diagnosis, evaluation and treatment for the child.

It is not the role of the pediatrician to diagnose learning disabilities but instead to inquire about the child’s educational progress and be vigilant for early signs of learning disabilities. Even if there is no apparent delay in speech or language development, a family history of learning difficulties should alert parents and physicians to this possibility in the child. With enhanced awareness of the pediatric community on early detection and referral we can do away with the traditional scenario in which the child must show persistent poor academic achievement for years before referral, assessment, and remediation. Early recognition and referral to qualified professionals means more effective treatment for more children.

Therapeutic Literacy Center:
Current neuroscience shows that learning “disabilities” do not have to be permanent. The brain exhibits enormous plasticity so the cognitive skills involved in reading and writing can be improved. (More about Plasticity)  At the Therapeutic Literacy Center we specialize in the cognitive processes behind learning to read, write and spell. Auditory and language processing, phonological awareness, visual memory and critical thinking can be strengthened, often significantly, in a relatively short time given intensive targeted instruction. Our network of clinicians, psychologists, and neuropsychologists have studied how children learn, and applied that research to Therapeutic Literacy Center programs and instruction. Through carefully researched and consistently effective methods, we help clients to develop control over their thinking processes to make sense out of reading, spelling, written language and math.

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