At its base level, learning difficulties are a set of conditions that affect the way people are able to interpret, memorise and retain new information. And they extend not just to the way information is internalised but also the way they communicate it to others. This means anyone who is suffering from learning difficulties will have trouble understanding new and complex information, developing skills and living independently. As a result, many of those who fall into this bracket often require at least some type of assistance to live a functional life.
Learning difficulties can affect multiple areas of an individual’s life, including written and spoken language, mathematics, attention and hand to eye coordination. They are usually recognised early on life but generally not until a child reaches school age, at which point progress and mental capacity can be monitored. Although many people with learning difficulties can still lead a normal life, they are generally life-long conditions that have to be managed appropriately.
Here are some of the most common:
Dyslexia is perhaps the most common learning difficulty of all and affects around 1 in 10 people in the UK. There are, in fact, six different types of dyslexia, but the most common of those is the phonological variety, which affects the way people interpret the written word. This has a huge knock-on effect for a person’s reading and writing skills, and how quickly they’re able to develop in an academic setting.
Attention difficulties often result in an individual having poor impulse control, being unfocused in group settings and in any projects or assignments they might be asked to complete. Until recently, the umbrella term for attention disorders used to be Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder being grouped within it. However, ADHD has now become the common reference point for both conditions.
Dysgraphia refers to the struggle of handwriting. Those who have been diagnosed with the condition have a hard time producing writing that is considered legible. Some of the major difficulties come from spatial orientation, meaning an individual will struggle to leave enough white space letters, staying on lines and out of the margins. The act of writing can be tedious and cause a lot of frustration to the point those who suffer from dysgraphia will look to avoid it as much as possible.
This area of difficulty deals with the inability to work with numbers properly. Those who suffer from dyscalculia are often unable to do simple math problems – and in severe cases even count. The spatial aspect of balancing equations can also be an issue. However, the problem can become even worse when dyslexia is a co-morbid symptom, as the inability to interpret numbers and their meaning can also impact on the accuracy of any long-hand working out.
This isn’t necessarily a learning difficulty as such, but given that it can present at the same time as other more commonly observed conditions, it’s worth mentioning. Dyspraxia is an impairment of motor skills, which means it has a direct impact on the ability of someone to engage with most forms of academic study. It can make something as simple as gripping a pen, pencil, paintbrush and musical instrument extremely painful and result in what appears to be clumsy or careless behaviour.
About the author:
Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.
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