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My son has difficulties learning, his teacher said she thinks he has learning disabilities and/or ADHD. What does this mean? What are learning disabilities and what is attention deficit?

Learning Disabilities are a variety of disorders in areas such as reading, writing, math, listening, speech, and at times even difficulties in social perception. The causes of learning disabilities are not connected with the environment but are actually are result of abnormal activity in certain areas of the brain. Today, there is also evidence of the specific areas that are affected. Together with this, the environment can lessen or strengthen the disabilities. The tendency today is to characterize each of the learning disabilities specifically. 

Reading Disability - This means abnormal development in reading words and writing. Its basis is difficulties in spoken language, difficulty in distinguishing between sounds and difficulty in the ability to store and retrieve words properly.

Difficulties in writing can be part of the reading problem or they can be derived also from abnormal motor development in which the child doesn't develop the ability to create the letters with the use of the handwriting system.

In math, we're speaking about difficulties in retrieving data and calculations, which affects afterwards automatic use of basic mathematical functions. In this area there is also a problem of retrieval and storage, which is also related to language and spatial and visual perception.

Around this cycle of learning disabilities in reading, writing, and math, there is also an array of disorders that explain them: attention disorders, perception disorders, memory, etc... Today the literature speaks also about associated difficulties in social communication, in other words, children that aren't successful in correctly analyzing social situations and their reactions in these situations are not effective.

Regarding attention-deficit - this is a disorder in the psychiatric spectrum, a sort of umbrella disorder over all learning disabilities, in other words: there is a possibility of the presence of learning disabilities and ADHD together, but there are cases of learning disabilities without ADHD or ADHD without learning disabilities. The distinction is unequivocal with the passage of time. In other words, if we have evidence of abnormal development from a very young age, we can know that the child is in danger of developing a learning disability; however, when the difficulties arouse all of a sudden in first grade or in sixth grade, the diagnosis is made along the timeline.

 It's important to diagnose, treatment of the root cause, the achievements themselves, and the learning skills and then to check again after a period of time. If the child didn't narrow the gap in basic skills, the likelihood is that something isn't normal.

What's the difference between dyslexia and dysgraphia?

Dyslexia and dysgraphia are the most common types of learning disabilities. Learning disabilities are usually present at birth and affect learning throughout the lifetime.

Dyslexia is a reading disability resulting in difficulty in acquiring age-appropriate reading, slow reading, disturbances and difficulties in reading comprehension. Some reading disabilities are caused by language difficulties, such as difficulty in phonological recognition, recognition of the basic sound units that comprise the language, difficulty naming, and difficulty in sentence structure. A recognizable delay and disabilities in language development predict, frequently, the development of dyslexia. Other difficulties in reading are caused by difficulty in processing spatial information, for example, identifying differences in directions and distinguishing between different shapes.

Dysgraphia is a writing disability, which causes grapho-motor difficulties such as applying too much or too little pressure on the writing utensil, slow writing, many writing errors, incorrect phrasing of sentences, avoidance of writing or use of short answers in order to avoid extensive writing. The amount of content the student expresses in writing is usually less than the level of content he expresses orally, and this is because of great amount of effort that must be invested on the technical side of the writing and difficulty in phrasing. In many of the cases, the difficulties are caused by difficulties in fine motor skills (such as difficulty grasping the pencil), language difficulties (such as distinguishing between the sounds of the language and in connecting between the sound and the letter), difficulties in spatial perception (such as difficulty in distinguishing between letters), and/or difficulty in hand-eye coordination. 

My daughter is 11 years old and is in 4th grade. At the parent-teacher meeting, the teacher told me she thinks my daughter has a learning disability in the area of math and she called this "dyscalculia". I'd like to understand what dyscalculia is and how is a final diagnosis given?

Dyscalculia is a learning disability in the area of math, in other words: a recognizable difficulty in acquisition and use of fundamental math skills and in understanding them. A didactic evaluator who specializes in the area of math conducts an evaluation of the disorder.

I was assessed during my studies in university as dyslexic. Presently, my wife is pregnant. Is there a chance that my child will be dyslexic too?

Currently, it's known that learning disabilities are likely to be passed on hereditarily in families, from parents to their children; therefore, it's important to be aware of this and if necessary to refer to the appropriate assessment.

Is every delay in reading caused by dyslexia? When should a delay be a cause for worry?

A delay in acquiring reading skills can be caused by different reasons and isn't always dyslexia. For example, in certain cases the delay in reading is caused by late maturation. A child like this, if he will receive help in acquiring reading skills, he is likely to close the gap between him and his peers. In other cases, emotional reasons are likely the cause for the delay in acquiring reading skills. Therefore, before starting to classify the child and recommending an assessment, it's a good idea to consult with the class teacher and to give the child learning assistance. Frequently, a little help at the right time pulls the child out of the situation he got stuck in and he begins to benefit from the teaching in his class. A child who doesn't progress despite the help that he was given individually for a few months must be given a didactic assessment in order to clarify if he is in need of special instruction methods. Occasionally, a psychological assessment is also necessary in order to clarify if there are additional reasons for the learning difficulties. 

Is it possible to treat different learning disabilities through art therapy, movement therapy, music therapy, etc...?

Treatments of this type can help as part of a treatment program that would include remedial instruction as well. Currently, there are a wide variety of treatments available: music therapy, movement therapy, therapy with animals (such as therapeutic horse riding), art therapy and more. All of these are given by professionals who specialized in a certain type of therapy, and the matching of the therapy is made by focusing on one's emotional needs, one's mental state, and one's personality.

I'm a law student and am beginning my fourth and last year. I was assessed as having learning disabilities already in my first years in school and therefore received leniencies and lots of help. Despite it all, I didn't solve the problem of my writing mistakes and therefore I'm turning to you. I'm looking for a teacher or a course so that I can overcome this barrier.

Writing mistakes can certainly be a serious nuisance.  If, in fact, you are interested in getting help from a remedial education instructor who will help you learn the basic spelling rules, you can refer to your local Nitzan branch and check the possibilities. Together with this, you can help yourself with spellchecker in the computer. Regarding the mistakes the computer doesn't notice, it's recommended to ask for help from a friend or staff member for a final check. Finally, if the problem isn't solved, we must remember that we are people and not everything can be fixed and it's a good idea to learn and accept ourselves despite our limitations.

My daughter is in 6th grade. She was assessed and was found to have a learning disability. Both the assessment recommendations and the teacher recommend remedial instruction. Last year we gave her a private tutor who worked with her twice a week mainly on Hebrew and Math. I would like to understand what's the difference between remedial instruction and regular private tutoring lessons? What more, that I noticed that the prices for remedial instruction are higher than those for private tutoring lessons.

A central principle in remedial instruction is that in addition to learning the material, they teach the student how to learn and how to improve his abilities in verbal and written expression. The goal of remedial instruction is to help the student to improve those skills, which are weak for him, while at the same time relying on his strengths.

A specialist teacher, usually from the area of special education together with specialization in the specific area of knowledge, gives remedial instruction.

These teachers learned more years and have much experience and knowledge, and therefore the price they charge is higher

What are the differences between didactic, psychological, and psycho-didactic assessments?

In a didactic assessment, different learning and thought functioning are examined (information processing, memory, attention, organization) and similarly, skills in reading, reading comprehension, and writing.

The purpose of the psychological assessment is to evaluate intellectual ability (I.Q.) and check the affects of emotional influences and/or cognitive on learning processes and functioning, in general.

The psycho-didactic assessment is an assessment that includes in it a portion of the didactic assessment and a portion of the psychological assessment and must be conducted by a psychologist who specializes in the area of learning disabilities.

How does one decide which assessment is needed? Is it always necessary to conduct both a psychological assessment and a didactic assessment when there's a suspicion of learning disabilities?

In fact, it's not always necessary to conduct both assessments when there's a suspicion of learning disabilities. In the majority of cases, it's recommended to begin by checking in the didactic area, except for a case in which there's no doubt that there are significant emotional influences. In a case where the findings of the didactic assessment suggest emotional factors interfering significantly in functioning, it's recommended understandably to include also a psychological assessment. It' important to note that in a psychological assessment a picture of the profile of intellectual functioning is formed and it's possible to see more clearly the areas of difficulty, however not less important, also the areas of strength, which will be used as a platform for helping in the areas of difficulty.

One of the purposes of conducting an assessment is providing modifications in ways of learning and testing. There are certain modifications that require conducting a psychological assessment as well. (according to the instructions of the director of the Ministry of Education).