Children and Specific Learning Disorder




Are you wondering if there is more to your child's struggle with school work?

Specific learning disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder in which understanding foundational academic skills in math, writing, and/or reading is met with consistent impairments and difficulties. There is a persistent struggle to learn and use one or more of these academic skills and can result in below-average performance according to age.


Specific learning disorder typically manifests during the school-age years of development. However, a specific learning disorder might not be obvious until a child‘s academic expectations exceed their ability to compensate for it. For example, a child with an undiagnosed specific learning disorder in reading (dyslexia) may be able to avoid reading out loud, engage in other creative ways to meet the expectations in school without detection and once they enter junior high and learning demands change, their creative workarounds/extraordinary efforts are no longer effective. Nex, the child may start skipping class or missing assignments and one might assume the issue is more behavioural at first, but the child is actively avoiding tasks related to a deficit in their ability to efficiently process or perceive information.


For a child to be diagnosed with a specific learning disorder a psychoeducational assessment, individual history and school reports are evaluated. If the child receives a diagnosis of a learning disorder, it would specify the specific affected academic area, the skills within that domain that are a particular issue, and the overall level of severity (mild, moderate, and severe).



*Tip: Psychoeducational assessments are mentally exhausting, and your child may be particularly irritable afterwards. If possible, try to schedule an assessment so they can have some serious downtime after.


Overall, impairment in one area like reading can impact a child’s ability to perform in math or writing as well. A psychoeducational assessment can be useful in investigating the underlying specific skill deficit that can be impacting overall academic performance. Not only that, it can provide you with areas of strength too.


Children are extraordinarily resilient and with the right targeted support, the potential for success is limitless. With learning disorders, it’s not always apparent as it’s not easy to express or realize a difference in how one processes or perceives information. A diagnosis can give relief to all that extra energy used to avoid skill-dependent tasks, negative self-talk, frustration, and loneliness that can accompany a learning disorder. As a result, you may notice positive changes socially, emotionally, and behaviourally. Even more so, counselling can be a great tool for children and their parents to learn about their strengths and navigate the increasing learning demands one encounters throughout life.

Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-5) (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013)





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