URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/learningdisorders.html

Learning Disorders

Also called: Learning differences, Learning disabilities


What is a learning disorder?

Learning disorders are conditions that affect the ability to learn. They can cause problems with

  • Understanding what people are saying
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Doing math
  • Paying attention

Often, children have more than one kind of learning disorder. They may also have another condition, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which can make learning even more of a challenge.

What causes learning disorders?

Learning disabilities don't have anything to do with intelligence. They are caused by differences in the brain, and they affect the way the brain processes information. These differences are usually present from birth. Some of the factors that can contribute to the development of a learning disorder include genetics, environmental exposures (such as lead), and problems during pregnancy (such as the mother's substance abuse).

How do I know if my child has a learning disorder?

The earlier you can find and treat a learning disorder, the better. Unfortunately, learning disorders are usually not recognized until a child reaches school age. If you notice that your child is struggling, talk to your child's teacher or health care provider about an evaluation for a learning disorder. The evaluation may include a medical exam, a discussion of family history, and intellectual and school performance testing.

What are the treatments for learning disorders?

The most common treatment for learning disabilities is special education. A teacher or other learning specialist can help your child learn skills by building on strengths and finding ways to make up for weaknesses. Educators may provide special teaching methods, make changes to the classroom, or use technologies that can assist your child's learning needs. Sometimes tutors or speech or language therapists also work with the children.

A child with a learning disability may struggle with low self-esteem, frustration, and other problems. Mental health professionals can help your child understand these feelings, develop coping tools, and build healthy relationships.

If your child has another condition such as ADHD, he or she will need treatments for that condition as well.

NIH: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

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