Learning Difficulties

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Learning Disorders Or Learning Difficulties?

Psychiatry at Tokyo American ClinicCounseling and Psychotherapy at Shintomi Office

Disorders and difficulties in learning refer to the set of problems that affect learning processes, most notably in children and adolescents but also in adults.In the UK, the term learning disorder usually refers to an intellectual disability, while a learning difficulty refers to a specific learning difficulty, such as dyslexia and dyspraxia. In contrast, in the US and Canada, learning disorder refers to a set of specific problems that affect a person’s academic skills, including the ability to listen, speak, read, write, spell, reason, organize information and do math. The IQ of the person tested must be average or below average in order to be diagnosed with a learning disorder.

Children learning together

Learning Disorders: Definition

According to the DSM-5, learning disorders refer to problems related to performance in particular areas such as reading performance, math or written expression. These problems must constitute an obstacle for the person to be able to perform effectively in the academic field. Likewise, learning disorders are closely related to Intellectual Disability, and therefore, with a low Intellectual Coefficient.

Learning disorders can be identified by psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, neuropsychologists and other specialists through a combination of intelligence testing, academic achievement testing, and observation of classroom performance and social interaction. Other areas of assessment may include perception, cognition, memory, attention, and language abilities.

Types Of Learning Difficulties

Also called specific learning disorders, they are usually categorized in four broad areas:

    Difficulties in school skills:

    • Dyscalculia: A learning difficulty that affects the ability to understand numbers and mathematical symbols. People with dyscalculia often have difficulty making calculations, memorizing numbers, and even reading the time on a clock.
    • Dysgraphia: A learning difficulty that affects the ability to write or use fine motor skills. People with dysgraphia have problems with handwriting legibility and spelling.
    • Dyslexia: The difficulty of learning that affects the ability to read or process spoken and written language. It can affect the ability to read and write, verbal comprehension, and speech.
    • Distorthography: Sometimes related to dyslexia, is the inability to understand and apply the rules of spelling. Those affected do not follow grammatical or spelling rules, making it difficult to understand their written language.

    Difficulties in language and speech:

    • Dyslalia: The most common language disorder among children. It happens due to either physical problems or lack of stimulation during language development. The person cannot articulate sounds in a correct way that are necessary for clear speech.
    • Dysphasia and Aphasia: Both are related to the inability to use oral or written language to communicate. In the case of aphasia, it is usually the result of an accident or injury. In the case of dysphasia, the person cannot acquire the ability to communicate from early childhood and the problem usually continues during adulthood.

    Difficulties in motor function:

    • Motor coordination: Difficulties in motor coordination, whether thick or fine, affect manual dexterity and therefore written performance. People with motor coordination problems usually cannot hold a pencil correctly, so the writing is usually illegible.
    • Visual perception: Difficulties in visual perception cause the person to be unable to understand the information that they see. This affects the skills of copying, drawing and the process of reading and writing.

    Associated problems:

      Although they are not specific difficulties for learning, they play an important role in the process.

      • Memory: Because it includes the ability to remember words and ideas, people with memory problems often have difficulty understanding explanations, or doing long-term activities.
      • Attention Deficit Disorder with or without hyperactivity: The disorder affects a person’s ability to maintain fixed attention on a stimulus, control their behaviour, and retain information. Although ADHD is not considered a learning difficulty, it usually has comorbidity with specific difficulties for learning.
      • Autism Spectrum Disorder: Similar to ADHD, it affects skills that are often used in learning processes, such as communication and attention.
      • Executive function: It refers to brain systems that affect cognitive processes related to planning, organization, strategy, attention, and memory, among others. When there are problems in these systems, it also affects the learning ability of the person.

      Assessment of Learning disorders and Difficulties

      Usually, a person first has learning difficulties at school. Teachers can detect signs that the student has problems in a learning process, which is often reflected in grades and school performance. The teacher may be the person who recommends your child or loved one have professional testing and assessment. This serves several purposes. The first is to ensure the proper diagnosis is given. Some learning difficulties are not easy to detect, necessitating a mental health professional to evaluate the person’s abilities and determine a diagnosis. To diagnose a learning disorder or learning difficulty, mental health professionals use specialized psychological tests in conjunction with observations and interviews. The second is to have a list of recommendations on how to work with the child in the classroom and at home.

      All assessments delivered by Tokyo Mental Health come with guidelines on how to help your child be successful in the areas they are challenged in the most. For more information, contact our psychological assessment office at the following email address: [email protected]

      Learning Disorders Treatment

      Learning Disorders often last throughout life. However, those who suffer from learning disorders or learning difficulties can learn strategies to cope with these problems. When this problem is left untreated, it is common for affected people to feel frustrated and have low self-esteem, which can lead to disorders such as depression or anxiety.

      Treatment strategies generally include three areas: school accommodations, special interventions, and special education. School accommodations are made inside and outside the school classroom to facilitate the learning process of a student. They may refer to physical and material adaptations, changes in the school curriculum, or simply changes in the teaching strategies of teachers. The intervention of a mental health professional is required to guide and train teachers in this regard.

      Special interventions are designed to improve the quality of learning in people with specific learning difficulties. There are special strategies to help people with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia, among others. These strategies include the use of specialized material and specific teaching methods. The special education system is available for people with learning disabilities. The criteria for accessing this service varies by country. Schools usually have a guide to determine which students require the service, but it is necessary to have a full evaluation by a mental health professional.

      Child completing homework

      Learning Disorders | What To Do

      If you think you or your children have a learning disorder or difficulty, seek further assessment from a doctor and discuss what sort of strategy might be helpful. Come see us at Tokyo Mental Health for a complete Assessment, that will include the application of specialized tests, observations, interviews, and Feedback sessions for parents and teachers.