Learning disabilities or learning disorders may affect about 10-40% of the population, depending upon the particular study. At the high range, some of the children who are diagnosed with a learning disability may actually have learning "differences," which don't fit within the "normal" standard of learning. How these are considered as learning disabilities is that standard schooling is more difficult for those who are affected. Both learning disabilities and differences change the way a person learns in the school setting, and may have a negative effect on those students who are expected to conform to more common learning standards.
Further, when they are not noticed, it can seriously impact school performance for most of a student’s school career, and may result in students being accused of not trying, being lazy, or being unmotivated. It is rarely the case that a learning disability means a student is less motivated, especially at an early age. Yet several years of struggle when learning disabilities go unrecognized means that the student becomes less motivated since he or she has come to expect criticism and failure. He or she may no longer want to try if academic experiences have been overtly negative.
Common learning disabilities can be split into several groups. Perhaps the most common are attentional disorders, such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD). This condition is to some people misdiagnosed significantly, and appears to most affect boys. When it is misdiagnosed, especially in elementary school, it can mean children have simply not yet reached the developmental milestone that allows them to focus and concentrate in class. In most cases, it is hard to tell before a child is eight or nine years old whether true ADHD exists. Persistent inability to remain focused on classwork, and no improvement in this area after several years of school is key to making a clear diagnosis of ADD or ADHD.
Other common learning disabilities may affect a way a student performs in certain academic areas. For instance, dyslexia is a common disorder that means students see words and shapes differently than other students. This can make learning to read and write near impossible without intervention. By using various techniques, especially early in a child’s school career, dyslexia can be addressed and the child can become a marvelous student.
Another learning disability that can cause very tough times in classrooms is dysgraphia. This is the inability to write legibly, produce letters consistently, and remember how to make letters, or keep the size of letters consistent. Dysgraphia is a challenge for many intelligent students, whose verbal performance is often well above that of other students. Since they verbally appear so intelligent, their inability to turn in work because of slow writing production is easily classed as lazy by uninformed teachers. Fortunately, with intervention, many of these students may also be helped, usually by using a keyboard rather than pen and pencil for answers. Teachers can also modify curricula so that students may give answers orally or in multiple-choice form.
Dyscalculia tends to affect students in learning math. Students may be unable to memorize multiplication tables, or even master basic adding and subtracting. As math work relies on these foundations, dyscalculia can become progressively worse. It’s important to realize that even with assistance and tutoring, some students may not fully overcome dyscalculia, which makes it very hard on these students. Standardized high school exit examinations may disallow use of a calculator, even though a student has this condition, and even if a student understands how to apply the math, but not how to compute it. This means students with dyscalculia may not graduate, unless given leave by an administrator to do so.
None of these common learning disabilities, and there are several others, like visual or perceptual conditions, mean that a child is not intelligent. Yet they may have to work much harder than their peers in order to produce the same amount of work, and without knowledge of their condition, they can be in for a tough road in the standard public school setting. There is fortunately greater knowledge of the common learning disabilities now, and greater chance of discovering and diagnosing these conditions when children are young so that they can receive the best possible help from special education teachers and staff.