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How can you tell if your child has a learning disability?

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During their early learning years, children master the basics of reading, writing and simple math, each at their own pace. However, grasping these basic skills can be perplexing to some children. If you notice that your child has an obvious problem with letters, numbers or speech, they may have a learning disability. Learning disabilities are a spectrum of disorders that affect how information is processed by the brain, making it hard to comprehend certain concepts.

For example, your child might recite alphabets from A to Z with ease, but when individual letters are pointed out, they will struggle to name them. Another child may have troubles tying their shoes, buttoning a shirt or putting pieces of puzzles together.

Due to the difficulties they face mastering various tasks, children with learning disabilities often get angry, frustrated and may even have a low self-esteem. They might know what they want to say, write or accomplish but reaching there isn't straightforward.

Warning signs that your child has a learning disability

There are three main categories of learning disabilities:

•    language or speech problems

•    reading, writing or simple arithmetic troubles

•    Other disorders that don't fit the above two categories, like coordination problems.

It is often clear when a child has one type of learning disability - such as dyscalculia, which is a disorder that impairs math abilities – but it's also not uncommon to find a child with multiple disorders.

Some of the red flags that might be an indication of a child's learning disability, especially those aged 5 and under, include:

•    Pronunciation problems and delayed speech

•    Difficulties in learning new skills or words, reading, the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, shapes etc.

•    Short span of attention/poor concentration

•    Difficulty following directions

•    Poor grasp of a pencil or crayon

What can you do to help a child with learning disabilities?

This disorder doesn't go away; it is permanent. However, a lot can be done to assist the child work around it. Many child care facilities and schools have come up with special teaching techniques to accommodate the needs of children with learning disabilities. For instance, materials can be presented to the child in different ways, and also the child can repetitively practise in a supportive and patient setting.

Support your child and offer them positive learning experiences.

The end goal is to focus on your child's strengths and not weaknesses. If they are struggling with the alphabet but like studying animals, encourage your child's interest and help them become an animal expert. Encouraging their passion will largely boost your child's self-esteem. Arrange activities that you know your child can accomplish and are successful at.

Don't try being an expert on treating learning disabilities

Remember that your job is to provide constant encouragement, patience and a lot of love. If you can, look for experts who have the necessary skills to aid your child learning. Your child is eligible for special services once diagnosed.

Psychological counselling can be of help

Often these children feel like they are a let-down, leading to self-esteem issues. They are easily frustrated, which can in turn cause anger. Psychological or emotional issues are much more important than knowing that one plus one equals two. As a parent, learn to handle your child's emotional outbursts.