A learning disorder is defined as difficulty in an academic area (reading, mathematics or written expression). The child’s ability to achieve in the specific academic area is below what is expected for the child’s age, educational level, and level of intelligence. The difficulty experienced by the child is severe enough to interfere with academic achievement or age-appropriate activities of daily living.
Types of learning disabilities include
- Disorder of written expression
- Mathematics disorder
With dyslexia a child has difficulty learning to read and understand written language. Even children with average or above-average intelligence, plenty of motivation, and ample opportunities to read can have dyslexia. Because children with dyslexia have trouble making the connection between letters and their sounds, they often also have difficulty with spelling, writing, and speaking.
Disorder of written expression is characterized by poor writing skills. And mathematics disorder is a condition characterized by mathematical ability substantially below expectation given a child’s age, general intelligence, and education.
An estimated “ten to 30 percent of children have learning disorders. Mathematics disorder is estimated to affect 1 percent of school-aged children. Reading disorders are more common in children of parents who experienced a learning disorder. Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with a reading disorder than girls.”
Although the exact reasons for learning disorders are not known, they are believed to involve an abnormality in the nervous system, either in the structure of the brain or in the functioning of brain chemicals. This difference in the nervous system causes the child with a learning disorder to receive, process, or communicate information differently than other children.
Children with learning disorders have an even harder time in schools where students are required to read and translate at least two languages. For those with a learning disability – especially a reading or language disorder – learning may be a very difficult and unpleasant task. Boys, for example, who can’t learn Talmud often feel alienated from religious society and drop out of the religious system altogether.
A large percentage of the teens at risk that I see in my practice have some type of learning disorder, and over the course of their development they have felt progressively alienated from their schools and communities.
Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is the Executive Director of Shalom Task Force and author of “At Risk – Never Beyond Reach” and “First Aid for Jewish Marriages.” To order a copy, visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com. For more information about Shalom Task Force, please visit www.shalomtaskforce.org. You can e-mail questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.