Dyslexia is thought to be the most common learning disability, although there are many others. Most people have a misunderstanding about dyslexia. Several decades ago, dyslexia was thought to be a tendency to reverse letters and numbers. Today, after extensive research in the field, we know that dyslexia is much more than letter and number reversals. In fact, letter reversals are merely a secondary symptom of a much larger problem.
Dyslexic individuals have a basic problem with "phonological processing", or more simply - the ability to match letters to their sounds. Individuals with dyslexia have significant difficulty sounding out words and they have very poor spelling ability. Often, they have a problem memorizing multiplication tables and they may have a deficit in oral language. Dyslexia often runs in families and may be present in a parent.
If a person has a reading problem, psychoeducational testing is essential to determine the cause of the reading problem. Not all people with reading problems have dyslexia. Some individuals with reading problems have a language disorder, or their poor reading ability may be due to the effects of an emotional disorder or AD/HD.
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) has been a "hot" diagnosis over the last several years, but do so many children really have AD/HD? The answer is....probably not. The symptoms of AD/HD are symptoms that are also common to a variety of other mental health conditions, and learning styles or problems.
What are the symptoms of AD/HD?
- poor concentration
- forgetfulness and/or a tendency to lose things
- difficulties with organization
- reluctance to engage in mentally challenging tasks
- problems listening when spoken to directly
- difficulty completing tasks
- careless mistakes in schoolwork
- fidgety behavior
- inability to stay seated in class
- talking excessively
- problems playing quietly
- is often "on the go"
- running or climbing excessively
- difficulty engaging in tasks quietly
- blurting out answers in the classroom
- difficulty awaiting one's turn
- problems interrupting the discussions of others
It is important to realize that a child does not need to demonstrate all of these symptoms to have AD/HD. It is equally important to determine the cause for the child's behavior problems. Children with emotional problems, learning disabilities, or giftedness can demonstrate some of these symptoms but it does not necessarily mean that they have AD/HD. A comprehensive evaluation of a child's learning ability, emotional and social status, family and peer situation, developmental history, and medical status is the preferred method to determine if there is a problem with your child, and if so, what is the cause of that problem. At that point, the professional can provide you with appropriate recommendations for treatment.
Gifted and Talented
Clearly every child is special and all children have strengths and weaknesses, but some children are quite advanced in their learning ability and find grade-appropriate instruction to be too simplistic. Sometimes these children will be misidentified as having AD/HD. They become bored in the classroom and fail to pay attention, or they can become frustrated and act out. In more extreme cases, a child may appear sad or depressed because she feels "different" from other children in the classroom.
What are the signs of the cognitively gifted child? Many of these children read early, have advanced language skills, and think very creatively. Their interests may be quite different from their same-age peers, and they may complain that school is boring.
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is typically identifiable in children from a very young age (i.e., as young as 18 months to 36 months). There are two "hallmark symptoms" of this disorder, both of which are present to some degree:
Some children do not speak at all, but others cannot sustain conversation or they use language in an unusual manner. In their interactions with others, autistic children may have difficulty maintaining eye contact or their facial expressions may be unusual. Some children adhere to nonfunctional routines or rituals, and others may engage in repetitive movements (e.g., arm-flapping, twirling). Still others are hypersensitive to sensory stimuli. Early identification of ASD is crucial so that the child and family can receive early intervention services, and the child's functioning can be maximized.
Both children and adults experience emotional reactions to stress in their lives. Such a reaction is normal, but there are times when individuals start having problems functioning at home, school, or work. For example, a person may be feeling so depressed or anxious that he may be unproductive or he may be having difficulty getting along with important people in his life. Life may be unfulfilling or he could have difficulty attaining his goals. In these situations, it is important to determine the causes of the individual's difficulties so that appropriate recommendations can be offered to help solve the problem before it gets "out of hand".