Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Understanding Learning Disabilities

NAMC montessori understanding learning disabilities list of dyslexics

All the people on this impressive list of authors, statesmen, scientists, entertainers, and athletes have one thing in common — they are all dyslexic!

Learning disabilities include:
  • Perceptual handicaps
  • Brain injury
  • Minimal brain dysfunction
  • Developmental aphasia

Learning disabilities are not:
  • Visual, hearing, or motor handicaps
  • Intellectual disability
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Caused by environmental disadvantages
Children who have a learning disability have, according to the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using spoken or written language, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations.”

Montessori Teachers Working to Understand Learning Disabilities: Education for Every Child


Learning disabilities cannot be outgrown and they are not a result of laziness, poor academics, or a poor home life. Learning disabilities are not a sign of reduced intelligence; the majority of people with a learning disability are of at least average intelligence. Learning disabilities are indiscriminate, affecting boys and girls equally. However, more boys are referred than girls due to behavior issues.

Between 5 and 10% of school age children have a specified learning disability. Children with learning disabilities are not sensory deficient. They are able to perceive information through their senses just like other children. They do, however, have trouble processing, recognizing, storing, and retrieving the information they take in.

Types of learning disabilities:

  • Dyscalculia – difficulty understanding, working with, and manipulating numbers (Morin)
  • Dyspraxia – fine and/or gross motor coordination; poor motor planning (Patino)
  • Dysgraphia – Difficulty processing written or spoken word and transferring that information to text (Patino, Understanding dysgraphia)
  • Dyslexia – connecting letter symbols to sounds; decoding text; recognizing sight words; fluency; understanding text (Lapkin)

As a parent and teacher, there are some indicators to watch for when assessing for possible learning disabilities:
  • Uneven pattern of academic skills
  • Pervasive clusters of difficulties
  • Lack of learning despite repeated efforts
  • Inconsistencies in remembering and using information
  • Lack of organization
  • Difficulty with transitions
  • Unusually high or low activity levels
  • Lack of social ability
  • Poor self-esteem (The Hill Center, 2015)

As noted in the previous list, learning disabilities often occur in clusters in more than one area. Watch for challenges in understanding:
  • Language
  • Symbol learning
  • Memory
  • Organization and attention
  • Visual and spatial perceptions
  • Conceptual abilities (The Hill Center, 2015)

If you suspect a child has a learning disability, you should refer him/her for psycho-educational testing. These assessments show not only the child’s potential but also her/his strengths and weaknesses. Individual educational plans (IEP) can be made based upon the results of these assessments.


Works Cited
Dyslexia.com. “Famous people with the gift of dyslexia.” http://www.dyslexia.com/famous.htm
The Hill Center. Understanding learning differences: An introduction to learning disabilities. Chapel Hill. 2015.
Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.

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