Learning disabilities (The Basics)

Patient education: Learning disabilities (The Basics)


What are learning disabilities?Learning disabilities are problems that cause a child to have trouble learning. For example, a child might have problems learning to read, write, or do math. Learning disabilities do not have anything to do with how smart a child is. Children with learning disabilities can be just as smart or smarter than other children their age. But they have brain differences that make it hard for them to learn, remember, and use information.

What are the symptoms of learning disabilities?The main symptom is not being able to learn as well as other children. For example, a child with a learning disability might not be able to read, write, or do math as well as other children who are the same age or in the same grade.

Will my child need tests?Yes. Your child will likely have a number of different tests. The tests check for any problems in the following areas:

IQ – IQ stands for “intelligence quotient.” This test measures how well a person solves problems and understands things.




Motor skills – These tests check how well a child can move large muscles (such as in the legs and arms) and small muscles (such as in the fingers).

The tests also include a review of the child’s school records and watching how he or she acts in a classroom. Different experts, including special education teachers, social workers, or guidance counselors, can do these tests.

A doctor, nurse, or other expert might also test your child for health or emotional problems, such as worrying or feeling sad or depressed. Problems in those areas can affect how well a child can learn.

How are learning disabilities treated?Learning disabilities are treated with “special education.” This is when a child learns from a teacher with special training. Special education uses different ways to teach children with disabilities. The methods depend on the learning disability. Examples include using pictures along with written or spoken words to explain things. Teachers might also give the child tips on how to remember things or help them stay organized. Children with learning disabilities might be given extra time to solve problems or take tests.

The earlier your child gets tested and treated for learning disabilities, the better he or she will do in school in the future.

ADHD Medications Schooling

Inappropriate use ADHD drugs does not improve grades

Illicit use of ADHD meds won’t boost grades

Turning to ADHD medication during exams won’t improve brain function; if anything it may cause harm to your brain.

Many college students turn to ADHDmedications during exam week, treating the prescription stimulants as “smart drugs” that will enhance their academic performance.

But a new study shows that drugs like Adderall do not improve, and can actually impair, brain function in healthy students who take the drug hoping for an intelligence boost.

“It’s not a smart drug. It was not suddenly improving their ability to comprehend information they were reading,” said lead researcher Lisa Weyandt, a professor of psychology at the University of Rhode Island.

As many as a third of college students have reported turning to ADHD medications to give themselves an edge on their studies, Weyandt said.

Study edge

The thinking is that if the drugs help kids with ADHD improve their focus, they should provide the same benefit for people who don’t have the disorder, she said.

To test whether this effect is real or not, she and her colleagues recruited 13 students to participate in two five-hour study sessions in the lab. The students took a standard 30mg dose of Adderall before one session, and a placebo capsule before the other.

Students on Ritalin did experience an increase in their blood pressure and heart rate. “The medication was having a physiological effect on their brain,” Weyandt said.

The students also showed an improvement in their alertness and their ability to focus, the researchers found.

However, students on Adderall experienced no improvement in reading comprehension, reading fluency or factual recall, compared to when they’d taken a placebo, Weyandt said.

“We read aloud stories to them and asked them to recall factual information from the stories,” she said. “That didn’t improve.”

Risk factors

Worse, the ADHD stimulant actually impaired students’ working memory, Weyandt said.

“Working memory is your ability to remember and use information in your mind for solving a problem,” she said. “If you have to remember someone’s telephone number and you just have to remember it in your mind, you can’t write it down – that’s working memory.”

People with ADHD often have less neural activity in regions of the brain that control working memory, attention and self-control, Weyandt said. Adderall and similar medications increase activity in those regions, bringing them up to normal levels.

“If your brain is functioning normally in those regions, the medication is unlikely to have a positive effect on cognition and may actually impair cognition,” Weyandt said. “In other words, you need to have a deficit to benefit from the medicine.”

The developing brain

The new study was published recently in the journal Pharmacy.

“They’re often misused [ADHD drugs] because people pull all-nighters and they’re tired, and they think it’s going to keep them awake. Maybe it does, but it’s certainly not going to help with their academic work,” said Dr Victor Fornari, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York.

Fornari is particularly concerned that the misuse of ADHD drugs could take a toll on the developing brains of college students, particularly if combined with alcohol and other substances typically abused on campuses.

“The brain is still developing until the mid to late 20s. It’s important to keep it healthy,” Fornari said.

Weyandt added that there’s also a chance that an ADHD stimulant like Adderall – which is essentially an amphetamine – could endanger a student’s heart health.

“If you were a student who had some type of underlying cardiac arrhythmia and you were unaware of it and took a prescription stimulant, it could cause serious cardiac problems,” Weyandt said. “That would be rare, but it’s possible.”


Prevent The Third Semester Slump

1. ORGANISE: Look again at where and when a child learns. Is it quiet and away from the television? Is the area well-organised with colour coding for different subjects? Is there a whiteboard where your child can write down important tasks and schedules? Fiing systems for attention deficit sufferers should stand upright and be easily accessible.
2. GIVE MEDICATION A SECOND LOOK: Make an appointment with the teacher and ask if there is a certain time of day during which it appears that the medication is less effective. Discuss possible adjustments with your doctor.
3. HOMEWORK PRIORITIES: Help your child to arrange homework/tasks according to degree of difficulty and time needed (on the whiteboard) and make tick marks next to them as he/she completes them.
4. AVOID LAST-MINUTE PANIC: Make a schedule of tests, how long preparation will take and ensure that he/she knows what tests will be about.
5. STAY IN CONTACT: Make sure that you know what’s happening in your child’s life, e.g. how he/she gets along with classmates and teachers and if he/she takes part in discussions. If your child gets along especially well with a certain teacher, this person can be a good choice to make contact with to keep you informed about how things are really going with your child.

6. CALL IN HELP: Look for signs that your child might need extra help with work, e.g. if he/she feels anxious before tests, works hard but still has falling grades, or does not want to go to school.H

ADHD Parents Schooling Videos

Videos About ADHD

Parents Schooling

Managing Children Effectively

Approaches in the management of general behavioural problems in children with an attention deficit disorder (ADD)


1. It is important to remember that all children have strong and weaker points. They do not inherit only our best characteristics and it is important for parents to accept their child as a complete person and to not focus on weak points. Remember that ADD is a neurobiological condition and that certain behaviour is not under the child’s control. Quality research shows that achievement during the early school years does not necessarily lead to later success. Boys especially need to be given time to mature.

2. Parents should work at their relationships with their children and should avoid becoming just another teacher or authority figure to them. Families should develop traditions and celebrations and should try to eat together once per day. Everyone in the household should have a specific task which is his/her responsibility.

3. Be on the lookout for objects and events which draw your child’s attention and use it as an informal learning opportunity. If their interest is stimulated by, for example, a sport or by video games, get them magazines/books on these topics so that the written word can also communicate something to them.

4. It is very important to realise that children with an attention span problems also have an underactive motivation system. Encouragement from outside is often necessary. Some parents are upset by what they see as an attitude of indifference. The secret is to break down tasks into smaller sections with immediate feedback and motivation. Use an analogue watch to give children an idea of time. Important information should be clearly and prominently visible. A whiteboard calendar (erasable) is essential for homework, assignments and events. You should also provide a whiteboard on which the child can write down difficult concepts, like word problems or mind-maps.

5. Advice for younger children’s behaviour problems:

5.1 Always give short assignments in a gentle, measured tone of voice. Touch the child, make eye contact and state your expectations clearly. Give immediate feedback and don’t ask something if you cannot check to see that it has been done.

5.2 In case of specific negative behaviour that you would like to change, both parents should be in agreement on what needs to change as well as, more importantly, what positive behaviour they would like to replace it with. In general, it is better to first begin with a reward system, before bringing in punishment. Different systems can be used for rewards, like simply making positive remarks or using a point scoring system. Later, points can be deducted as punishment or systems like “time out” can be used. If tangible rewards are used, it is important that it is immediately available and that it means something to the child. For children with ADD it sometimes necessary to change the system each term to keep it interesting.

An example of a point-scoring system:
Waking up and getting dressed on time without arguing            5 points
Brush teeth                                                                                2 points
Homework (per 20 minutes)                                                       3 points
No fighting with brother/sister
morning                                                                                     3 points
night                                                                                          3 points

This can then be exchanged for a special reward, e.g.
Playing outside                                                                          5 points
Going to bed half an hour later                                               25 points
Playing video games (30 minutes)                                          30 points

5.3 Misbehaviour in public places is a specific challenge for parents with young children. It is important that parents state the rules clearly before entering a public area.
“When we’re in Checkers, the rule is that you stay by my side.”
“The second rule is no crying in front of the toy shelves.”

This can be reinforced with positive feedback as soon as the area is entered. “Well done, you’re walking right next to me!”

5.4 One of the most difficult things for parents is to realise that talking and explaining are highly ineffective for modifying behaviour in younger children; therefore less explaining, pleading and persuading, and more doing!

6. Older children’s behaviour problems:

6.1 Teenagers are not a different species, but merely immature versions of themselves. It is important to be aware of things that they do right (sometimes difficult in 13 to 14 year-olds) and to give plenty of positive feedback about it.

A family-based negotiation system can help deal with problems. The steps include:

Define the problem.
Everyone in the family writes down possible solutions (without criticising).
Discuss the possible solutions and decide on the one that is most acceptable to the majority.
Create a contract (with stipulated punishments if it is broken) and let everyone sign it.

6.2 Remember to devote the most energy to managing and changing things that really matter, like school work and social interaction and to focus less on things like music, clothing and absolute neatness.

7. Some children with an oppositional disorder have immediate negative reactions to commands, refuse to acknowledge authority and blame others. They have an immature response which will sometimes respond well to a specific approach. The principles depend on the parent acknowledging the negative behaviour (without sarcasm or anger) and on the child being taught specific responses in order to be part of the solution.

A simple example:

“I can see you don’t want to do your homework today. What’s up?” This seldom leads to a response.

“Tomorrow’s homework is important, so let’s make a plan. Let’s work for twenty minutes and then you can go play outside for a bit before we start again”, or any suggestion by the parent or child that works or that defuses the situation. The response the child should learn is “I need to do my part” or “I can do it differently” or “There is more than one way to do it”.

8. At the end of the day, the parent should reflect and, for the sake of their own mental health, forgive. They should forgive their child, themselves and also other people who may have acted harshly towards the child. It is very important that unacceptable behaviour is not excused because the child has an attention span deficit, but that the disciplinary measures occur closer in time to the negative behaviour, with immediate feedback.

When a child experiences serious problems at school, measures can be attempted whereby the child gets regular feedback about his/her behaviour.

An example for a younger child is a card on the desk to which the teacher can draw his/her attention.

Sit still.
Raise your hand.
Keep working.
Don’t call out.

A learner can carry a behaviour card which each teacher can sign and give to a mentor/guardian during breaks.

It is important to not only focus on scales that evaluate attention deficit disorder, but that also those that evaluate quality-of-life, like the WFIRS-P, or scales that identify what time of day problems occur, like the D-TODS (Dundee-difficult time of day scale).

Information derived from this can guide us on where to focus with behaviour modification programmes, as well as to think about medication with a longer duration.


18 Great Ideas

Edit Entry


1. Reduce time delays and externalize time.
Keep waiting times to a minimum if possible. Use timers, clocks, counters, or other devices that show time as something physical whenever there are limits to completing tasks.

2. Externalize important information.
Post reminders, cues, prompts, and other key pieces of information at critical points in the environment to remind the child or teen of that must be done.

3. Externalize motivation (think “win/win”)
Use token systems, reward programs, privileges or other reinforcers to help motivate the child or teen with ADHD.

4. Externalize problem solving.
Try to reduce mental problems to physical ones or manual tasks, where the pieces of the problem can be manually manipulated to find solutions or invent new ideas.

5. Use immediate feedback.
Act quickly after a behavior to provide more immediate positive or negative feedback.

6. Increase frequency of consequences.
Give more feedback and consequences for behavior more often than is necessary for a child or teen who does not have ADHD.

7. Increase accountability to others.
Make the child or teen publicly accountable to someone several time across the day (or task or setting) when things need to get done.

8. Use more salient and artificial rewards.
Children and teens with ADHD need more powerful incentives to motivate them to do what others do with little external motivation from others. You may need to use food, toys, privileges, tokens, money or other material (artificial) rewards to help motivate them to work.

9. Change rewards periodically.
People with ADHD seem to get bored more easily with certain rewards, so you may need to find new ones periodically to keep the program interesting.

10. Touch more, talk less.
When you must give an instruction, approval or reprimand: Go to the child or teen, touch him/her on the hand, forearm or shoulder. Look him/her in the eye
Briefly (!) state your business then encourage the child or teen to restate what you just said.

11. Act, don’t yak.
Provide more immediate consequences to deal with both good and poor behavior, rather than “talking the issue to death” by nagging, nattering or lengthy moralizing about the problem.

12. Negotiate rather than dictate.
Follow these six steps to effective problem negotiation:

* Define the problem: Write it down and keep family members on task.
* Generate a list of all possible solutions. No criticisms are permitted at this stage.
* After all solutions are listed, briefly let each person critique each possibility.
* Select the most agreeable option.
* Make this a behavior contract (all family members sign it).
* Establish penalties for breaking the contract.