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Understanding and Overcoming Learning Disabilities in Children

By: Janet Ambrose
Many children have learning disabilities that they deal with every day. A learning disability is a frustrating thing for both children and parents. In fact, without support and encouragement a child with a learning disability can begin to develop low self-esteem. Fortunately, when it comes to learning disabilities in children there are ways to help young people deal with their learning challenges. The following outlines some examples of learning disabilities in children as well as ways parents and educators can help these children work to their full potential.


Dyslexia is a learning disability that is fairly well known. It has to do with the way that a child's brain processes words. A child with dyslexia often has trouble with the individual sounds that make up a word. In addition, dyslexia sometimes causes a child to mix up the letters of the words on a page. Parents or educators who are working with a child with dyslexia should allow the child more time to read and comprehend an assignment. Some other useful tips include:

Try allowing the child to select his or her own practice reading material. For instance, if the child is enthusiastic about a particular subject such as snakes, then let him or her choose a few age appropriate books about snakes from the library. The child will have extra incentive to practice reading if he or she is learning about a subject of interest.

Read aloud to the child while he or she follows along in another copy of the book. Once again, choose a story that will appeal to the child. As the parent reads, the child studies the words and begins to absorb the correct pronunciations.

  • Facts on Dyslexia: Learn the specific details of dyslexia and why early intervention is important for a child.


Dyspraxia is a learning disability that causes a person to have difficulty with planning a movement and carrying it out. The person's brain sends a message to a muscle, but that message is somehow interrupted. Some suggestions for working with a child who has dyspraxia are:

Speaking more slowly to the child so he or she can absorb the sounds of the words.

Motivate a child to speak by giving them lots of encouragement when they say a word or point out an object.

Use the PECS (Picture Exchange System) as another way for a child to communicate needs to parents or educators. The PECS involves a child giving a person the picture of an object that he or she wants. 

  • Information on Dyspraxia: Find a description of dyspraxia, some of the indications of it, and the help a child can receive.


Dysgraphia causes a person to have difficulty in writing down his or her thoughts. Some signs of dysgraphia are writing backwards or mixing up the order of the letters in a word. There are a few strategies a parent or educator can employ with a child who has dysgraphia:

Give the child more time to write down notes or finish written assignments.

Give the child a tape recorder to record his or her thoughts and listen to them before putting pencil to paper.

When completing a written assignment, the student may want to speak the words aloud as he or she writes. This strategy can assist a child in judging whether the writing makes sense.


As its name implies, dyscalculia relates to a person's challenges with recognizing numbers and completing math equations. The concepts taught in a math course are often very difficult for a person with dyscalculia to understand. In short, while some learning disabilities in children appear in the subject of reading, a person with dyscalculia has a learning disability in the realm of mathematics. Some ideas to help a child with dyscalculia include:

An educator or parents should begin mathematics lessons with a basic problem that has one concrete answer. Abstract math lessons can be taught in math courses further down the line.

Work one on one in a quiet study area where the child feels free to work at his or her own pace and ask questions.

Incorporate estimating in solving math problems.

Auditory Processing Disorder

A person with an auditory processing disorder has trouble understanding the sounds of words. Children with an auditory processing disorder often have normal hearing, but don't comprehend the words that are being said or what they mean. Some suggestions for helping children with auditory processing disorder are:

Parents can speak at a lower rate of speed with children who have auditory processing disorder so they have more opportunity to process the words effectively.

Let children with this learning disability study in a quiet atmosphere with few distractions.

Use memory-strengthening exercises to absorb main ideas in a lesson.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

In 1989, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was introduced to the senate as an act that would mandate how public agencies and states would provide special education, early intervention, and related services for children who have disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Act specifically addresses the educational needs that children up to 18 or 21 years old need.


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