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Learning Disabilities

The disturbance or underperformance of some very elementary psychological processes involved in dealing with the comprehension of either the functions of writing or speaking in a person qualifies as a learning disability in that individual. A variety of problems with the ability to write or spell words properly, to speak and to read written language and a minimization of the faculty of critical thinking and or listening are often put under an umbrella of types of learning disabilities in a person. Some of the signs like an inability to distinguish the left from the right direction, a problem with telling time correctly, inattentiveness or the presence of an extremely short attention span, difficulties with memory and recall, a reduced capacity to follow instructions and directions, present in a child signal some form of learning disability. Other psychological signs such as impulsiveness, cognitive dysfunction like a problem identifying letters or telling them apart, mixing numbers and problems with making sounds, restlessness and deficient attentiveness, and the giving of responses that are inappropriate to simple answers, reduced listening skills and disciplinary problems are also the usual indicators for the presence of some sort of a learning difficulty in the child. Dyslexia or a tendency to reverse letters while writing, generally poor reading and writing skills, a difficulty in naming or identifying familiar persons or things, problems creating certain types of lingual sounds, dysfunctional and poor coordination, including impaired motor skills and the late arrival of the ability to speak, and or the difficulty in learning new words or concepts including ideas are also forms of learning disabilities in children, especially if they persist over any length of time.

Teachers and more importantly the parents of children with learning disability play the greatest positive roles as they are the ones providing support and encouragement to the child, this factor is also true because learning disabilities are first manifested in children and it is primarily an affliction that concerns children. The very nature of the condition makes it very hard to identify it in children; being very subtle the problem is not often identified at the home of the child. Additional problems may compound the fact of the difficulty in diagnosis as children are often insecure and may not be willing to bring out the particular problems or difficulties that they face during the learning process. Therefore learning disabilities in the vast majority of cases are almost always identified in the classroom, and it is usually the teacher who spots the problem as it becomes very glaring by that time. Though learning disabilities are present in both sexes, the majority of disabilities of this nature seem to afflict boys more often than it does girls.

There is a disturbing trend in that learning disabilities in children are increasing these days, however the only reason that it is so has been argued by some experts, is because of the fact that the processes of identification and diagnosis of such conditions have improved and also that the awareness of such problems in society have also increased greatly these past few decades. While still other groups of experts look back to the 1800's and remark the obvious paucity of such conditions at that time when compared to their prevalence in the present. In fact learning disorders and problems such as attention deficit disorder (ADD) affected only one child per classroom in the 1950's. If the statistics are correct this is very alarming news as the same would be evident in five or six children per classroom today. Treatments using psychological therapy and drugs having amphetamine type effects haven't been able to change or affect any solution to the phenomenal rise in the appearance of learning disabilities. This may be largely because the roots of the problem may lie elsewhere and may involve factors like genes, nutritional factors and deficiencies or toxins present in the environment.

The problem with these types of disorders lies in the fact that they are not a reflection on the intelligence of the affected child since learning disorders have many causes aside from merely cognitive or mental ones. An inability to concentrate on the subject being taught for example, especially in children with ADD and hyperactivity is translated into poor grades at school, even though such children may posses average or above average intelligence. The fact is that, all probable causes for the establishment of the disorder in the child must be investigated and identified, even though some factors such as hyperactivity in children has been given more attention as plausible reasons for the disorder. This approach may not necessary warrant an ability to correct diagnosis and resolution of the disorder.

Problems with writing, or with particular subjects like arithmetic, problems with speech and conditions such as dyslexia are the leading and specific causes of most identified forms of learning disorders in a child. The presence of a hearing loss and other physical conditions such as a visual defect are sometimes the only reason for the child's poor performance at school and the resulting failing grades he or she may come home with. The process of learning and cognition are affected by other external factors such as overwork and fatigue due to inadequate food. All types of nutritional deficiencies and a lack of sleep are also contributory factors. Priority must be given to a child's nutritional needs especially if financial resources are adequate in a home, a wholesome, nutritious meal, abounding in whole grains and raw fruits and vegetables of all kinds must be a part of the child's daily diet.

Across all social classes children can be affected in their educational journey by other unfortunate factors of a psychological or emotional sort, present within the family or outside at school, children may find it difficult to deal with problems that tax the emotions. Proper behavior and the ability to concentrate and set goals can all be badly affected through the presence of suppressed anger and resentment in the child arising from emotional sources. In addition, fear or anxiety and other nervous problems can also hamper their normal educational development. If family problems are not resolved at home, the parents must seek the advise of professional counselors to help the family out, this is important for the child, at the same time, an honest relationship with the child is one of the best things his or her parents can contribute. For this to work the parents themselves must be open about their shortcomings and failings, as a mature relationship is what most insecure children yearn for in their homes.

The ability to learn in older children may be stimulated by their behavior and stimulus as infants, for instance the performance of creeping on the stomach and crawling on the hands and knees when they were infants is said to stimulate and have a bearing on their ability to read later on. This factor alone can lead to an impaired ability to read in those children who were denied this independent learning process as toddlers by their parents desire in rushing them along.

There may be underlying and undiagnosed factors such as anemia or an under active thyroid if the energy levels of the child are low. The faculty of memory and attention spans in the child, and the ability of the child to concentrate on a given task may be caused by poisoning from toxic chemicals or heavy metals that may have contaminated the water or food sources. Learning disabilities can be distinguished from the greater severity of other types of cognitive defects brought on by conditions that suppress normal mental development in an individual, because of their peculiar symptoms and signs disorders such as Down's syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome and autism are rarely misidentified with the symptoms of the many types of difficulties with learning.

The more common causes of disabilities with learning are the simpler factors such as food and chemical allergies, deficiencies in essential nutrients, emotional disturbance due to a dysfunctional home and toxicity due to heavy metals and the more complex probable causes like dysfunctional genes, dangerous infections affecting the brain and other types of brain damage are rare as far as learning disabilities are concerned. Chemicals and inhalants and other toxic compounds, preservatives in food, a defective immune system and certain types of allergies to food additives, are the leading and typical causes of learning disabilities. All such likely causes or factors must be thoroughly investigated in order to identify if they are possible the causes behind the disorder, and they must be corrected at once if found to be so. The deficiency in the body of the essential ions of calcium and magnesium which are essential to nerve and muscle function, or iodine which is essential for the thyroid gland, or iron necessary for the blood and protein formation and zinc necessary for muscle coordination, these minerals are the identified missing factors behind the rise of a type of learning disability known as ADD in children. Conversely, children who are afflicted by different types of learning disabilities may show high levels of some types of minerals in their bodies these include high levels of copper, the heavy metal lead, non essential minerals such as cadmium and aluminum. Thus deficiencies in essential minerals or an increase in non-essential ones may both affect the chances of a learning difficulty developing in a child.

A lowered performance in the ability to read, in visual and auditory perceptions leading to a specific and an impaired difficulty in learning has been connected to many types of allergens and allergies, that may develop in the child. Therefore children with allergies have been found to show lower efficiencies in basic skills by testing methods such as grades on standard tests and through ratings given by schoolteachers and parents. Allergies are more likely to afflict children with recurrent inner ear inflammation who are also suffering from a learning disorder at the same time; this is especially true when they are compared on their verbal abilities with children who did not have such learning problems. Especially in the skill sets of an ability to listen and hear well, the students who had cases of chronic rhinitis or asthma performed lower than their peers. Behavioral problems such as irritability, impulsiveness, hyperactivity and talkativeness may also be linked to certain allergies in the child. Inattentive behavior and an inability to concentrate, psychological problems like truancy, meanness and a withdrawal from the external world, the signs such as feeling drowsy or suddenly euphoric may also result due to allergic reactions in the body. Allergens found in chemicals like salicylates and various food allergies are the most probable causes of the appearance of hyperactivity in a child with learning disorders.

By their ability to directly stimulate the central nervous system the chemicals in the drugs and medication for various specific allergies can have a negative result on the learning and behavior of learning impaired children as a deleterious side effect. It has been noticed that drowsiness, irritability, the withdrawal from the world, and hyperactivity in a child can be brought about by a medication to ward off asthma attacks, this drug theophylline can therefore have some unpleasant side effects in children with impaired learning abilities. The side effects of all allergy drugs being dependant on the time period over which it is used in the person, the greater negative results coming in when the drug is use for prolonged periods of time. Other allergic disorders besides the allergic conditions such as allergic rhinitis, and asthma are treated using corticosteroids as supplements. The side effects that such drugs bring about in the person are not always helpful, and whether used in an inhalant form or as capsules, they can seriously affect the electrical activity of the brain, bringing changes in sleep patterns and mood, increasing irritability and raising the risk of psychotic reactions, all this can result because of their affect on the nervous system and its function. On standardized testing, where such subjects as math and verbal aptitude plus reading were included as questions, children who were on a continuous regimen of steroids due to allergies for a minimum period of a year displayed markedly lower grades than their peers taking the same tests.

Drowsiness in perpetuity, lessened ability to concentrate and a lowered ability to process information in the brain, including a slow reaction time handling visual motor chores were observed in children utilizing some very common over the counter antihistamines and prescription drugs. In addition, irritability, sedation and a dry mouth result from antihistamine usage. A higher probability or susceptibility to cancer is also probably linked to antihistamine utilization in such children. At the same time visual hallucinations have been brought on in many children put on decongestants. These side effects pose an appreciable risk to children with learning problems, even when the medical profession has been inclined to reduce or minimize the implications of such side effects inherent in the medications.

Supplements and herbs

Along with a good foundation of nutrition built on a nutritious and wholesome diet, supplements using the essential vitamins can aid memory and recall, improve the ability to concentrate and reduce the signs of irritability in a child with impaired learning capability. The unction of the nervous system and memory is aided by the use of the B vitamins, which also keep stress in check. The nervous system must have adequate amounts of the B vitamins for normal function. A combination of the vitamins C and E is a good bet as supplements. The most effective results are found when these two vitamins are taken in combination. The suppression of stress is an important role that the vitamin C plays in the body, it also concurrently helps in the manufacture of hormones that lower stress levels in the body, additionally the free radicals isolated by the vitamin E in the body are eliminated by the vitamin C. The ability to retain memory and general retention is boosted by the substance called lecithin, which is rich in inositol and choline, which themselves are compounds very important to the sequenced and regular function of the nervous system. Memory and the ability to recall things are affected in the long and short term by a deficiency of the essential mineral zinc in the body and thus supplements supplying this mineral must also find their place in the diet.

A depletion of the neurotransmitters which are the messengers of the brain is very serious, supplementation using amino acids must be carried out as these acids are the raw materials to neurotransmitters manufacture in the body. On the other hand an excess production of the neurotransmitters may also come about if supplementation is more than desired. The artificial sweetener aspartame has been linked to at least possible cause of the appearance of hyperactivity in children. This substance - aspartame - can thus almost be considered a neurotoxin and because of the fact that certain children seem very vulnerable to its effect of inducing hyperactivity, it is important to remove it from the diet of children with learning difficulties. A lowering of the levels of amino acids can come about in children who have a high intake level of this artificial sweetener especially through the consumption of processed foods and soft drinks.

The proper coordinated functioning of the brain and the nervous system can be helped along by the use of herbs, which have many of the nutrients essential to the body.

Iron which is a necessary mineral can be sourced from drinking two times a day, a combination cocktail using about 2 tbsp. of the juice of the stinging nettle or alternately the juice of the spinach, mixed thoroughly with 4 tbsp. of the juice of the red beet and 2 tbsp. of the juice of yarrow added to half a cup of grape juice. The transmission of signals in the brain and the nervous system is improved and the flow of blood to the brain is also enhanced when using twenty drops of ginkgo biloba tincture as an herbal supplement. The onset of loss of memory, senility in the aged and even Alzheimer's disease may be significantly improved using gingko biloba for long periods of time, as the herb has excellent nervous system stimulating effects.

Additional things you may do

Since heavy metal accumulation in the body is one of the factors that can bring about certain types of learning disabilities in children, it is important that a proper diagnosis be made by taking in a thorough analysis of hair, blood and urine samples from the child, to check for lowered levels of amino acid, for high levels of the metals like cadmium or lead that can cause toxic and unpleasant side effects.

Usual dosage

Children's daily dosages

  • Vitamin C, with bioflavonoids, age 3 to 6, 150 mg; age 7 to 11, 300 mg
  • B vitamin complex, 50mg
  • Vitamin E, with mixed tocopherols, age 3 to 6, 15 IU; age 7 to 11, 25 IU
  • Zinc, fifteen mg, with three mg copper
  • Lecithin, one tsp.

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