Monday, February 20, 2012

Dys-tinguishing the difference

Have you ever wondered why your child might be having difficulties with some parts of school and not all? Or why is s/he soo clumsy?

Have you heard the term "Learning Differences" or "Learning Difficulty/disability" and you weren't sure what it meant?

Very often parents come up to me and say "I know my child is smart, but why is s/he struggling in school?".  There could be a number of reasons, one of which could be the existence of a learning difficulty.
Here is a breakdown of the difficulties we most commonly see with our youngsters:

Dyspraxia, also known as developmental co-ordination disorder, is a disability that affects movement and co-ordination. It is thought to be caused by a disruption in the way messages from the brain are transmitted to the body.
Dyspraxia is characterized by difficulty in planning smooth, co-ordinated movements. This leads to:
  • clumsiness
  • lack of co-ordination
  • problems with language, perception and thought
Dyslexia is a common type of learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in the reading and spelling of words.
Dyslexia should be recognized as a spectrum disorder, with symptoms ranging from very mild to very severe. In particular, people with dyslexia have difficulties with:
  • phonological awareness
  • verbal memory
  • verbal processing speed
The above definitions were taken from:

Dysgraphia is defined as a difficulty in automatically remembering and mastering the sequence of muscle motor movements needed in writing letters or numbers. This difficulty is out of harmony with the person's intelligence, regular teaching instruction, and (in most cases) the use of the pencil in non-learning tasks. It is neurologically based and exists in varying degrees, ranging from mild to moderate. It can be diagnosed, and it can be overcome if appropriate remedial strategies are taught well and conscientiously carried out. An adequate remedial program generally works if applied on a daily basis. In many situations, it is relatively easy to plan appropriate compensations to be used as needed.

Dysgraphia can be seen in:
  • Letter inconsistencies.
  • Mixture of upper/lower case letters or print/cursive letters.
  • Irregular letter sizes and shapes.
  • Unfinished letters.
  • Struggle to use writing as a communications tool. 
This definition was taken from:

Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability (or difficulty) in mathematics. It was originally defined by the Czechoslovakia researcher Kosc, as a difficulty in mathematics as a result of impairment to particular parts of the brain involved in mathematical cognition, but without a general difficulty in cognitive function. This is the same definition that researchers in cognitive neuroscience use today.

What all definitions have in common is :
  • A presence of difficulties in mathematics
  • Some degree of specificity (ie. lack of across the board academic difficulties)
  • The assumption that these are caused in some way by brain dysfunction 

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