Five Myths About Learning Disabilities

Metro Learning Solutions’ parent company, LearningRx, is breaking down some of the top myths about learning disabilities. Read up on these misconceptions and the truth behind what causes learning struggles and how to address them. 

1. Tutoring is always the best approach to help with learning disabilities.

Why it’s false: Tutoring can be effective for a child who has missed a lot of school due to an illness, injury, or family move. Essentially, it provides a way for a student to “catch up” on material that they’ve missed due to an extended absence. But because tutoring teaches WHAT to learn, not HOW to learn, it doesn’t address underlying learning struggles. Because about 80 percent of learning disabilities are rooted in weak cognitive skills, programs that train cognitive skills can often help. 

For example, one-on-one brain training can help give children the tools necessary for further learning to become easy.The first step is a noninvasive assessment that identifies which cognitive skills are weakest. Once those skills are identified, a one-on-one brain training program is customized to address the student’s specific needs. After completing the program, learning in ANY subject can become easier, faster, and more efficient for many students.

2. Smart kids can’t have a learning disability.

Why it’s false: Have you ever wondered how your child can be so funny, creative, and smart but still struggle with school? That’s because it’s not only possible—but even common—for intelligent children to have a learning disability.A learning disability affects the way children ofaverage to above-average intelligencereceive, process or express information. It impacts their ability to learn basic skills, like reading, writing, or math.Because IQ is simply a measure of cognitive abilities, it’s easy to see how a very smart child could still have a learning disability. Just imagine a child whose cognitive skills are all very strong, except one: a bright child who struggles with selective attention, that is, the ability to remain focused on a task while being subjected to distractions; or a brilliant teen whose memory skills are so weak that he can’t remember what his homework assignments are. 

3. ADHD symptoms are the same in boys and girls.

Why it’s false: When people think of ADHD, they often think of boys bouncing off the walls. While hyperactivity is a common symptom of attention struggles—especially among boys—it’s often accompanied by things like impulsivity and an inability to multitask. But ADHD is now the generally accepted umbrella term for the three types of ADHD: Inattentive Type, Hyperactive/Impulsive Type, and Combined Type. For girls, ADHD tends to manifest differently, often as inattentiveness and disorganization. Because these symptoms aren’t as disruptive to the class, ADHD in girls is often missed. 

4. Dyslexia is about seeing letters backwards.

Why it’s false: The most basic symptom of dyslexia is not seeing “reversed letters” as many people believe. The truth is that 88 percent of learning-to-read difficulties are caused by weak phonemic awareness—the cognitive ability to blend, segment, and analyze sounds. The word dyslexia actually means, “poor with words or trouble with reading.” This could mean reading fluently, out loud, reading new words, and/or pronouncing words correctly. 

Some of the most common symptoms include: 

  1. Difficulty transferring what is heard to what is seen and vice versa. 
  2. Struggles pronouncing new words. 
  3. Poor at distinguishing similarities/difference in words (no, on) 
  4. Weak at letter sound discrimination (pin, pen)
  5. Low reading comprehension 

5. Genetics is the main reason kids are bad at math.

Why it’s false: There’s no such thing as someone being born bad at math, and it’s certainly not a pre-determined destiny. Although genetics can play a role, most people with dyscalculia (“trouble with numbers”) have poor visual processing and memory skills. For example, weak visual processing skills might cause someone to transpose numbers (68 becomes 86). When working memory is weak, someone doing mental math (say, 23 +28) might forget that they “carried the one,” leading them to answer 41 instead of 51. 

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