Saturday, November 14, 2009

Learning to learn

What do you do if you suspect your child has a learning disability?

When our children are born we meticulously take note – and celebrate – each and every milestone.
The first time they roll over, sit up, say their first word and take their first steps.
It’s a magical time for the family to see their little one thriving, and gives parents reassurance that all is well.
As our children get older and begin to learn how to read, write and count, we continue to take pride in their achievements.
But what happens when a child is late in demonstrating these abilities?
While the other children can count to 10, understand colours, write their name and recognise shapes, what happens to the child who lags behind?
Parents are reassured constantly through the first years of life that babies develop at different rates, so naturally they may wonder if their concerns for their child are just an example of a late bloomer.
However, instinct is a powerful parenting tool, and many parents will seek answers rather than wait to get help.
Learning disabilities are not as obvious to others as physical disabilities.
Children with learning disabilities can become very good at covering up their problems so they are not apparent to others.
As a result, children with learning disabilities may not be seen to be struggling until adolescence or even adulthood.
By this time it is likely that they will have significantly fallen behind in their learning and it will be much harder to improve their situation.
Therefore, early intervention is vital.
Learning disabilities most often arise from dysfunctions in the brain, and are not an indication of a low IQ.
Children with learning disabilities have trouble perceiving information, processing, understanding and remembering that information, and how to express information.
Overall, children with learning disabilities are intelligent, but their development and achievements fall short of expectations and they are often labelled as “lazy”.
There are a number of things you can do to find out if your child has a learning disability.

First of all, approach the child’s teacher and make a list of things to discuss. Find out if your child has been keeping up with work in the classroom, if they have been participating or if they are bored or not paying attention.
Observe your child at home, particularly with homework. Do they complete homework fairly smoothly or is it a constant struggle? Does your child ever read for fun?
It is worthwhile noting that a child can have a learning disability in one area, such as reading and spelling, but perform well in other areas, such as mathematics.
Are there any other influences on your child’s progress and behaviour? If there are difficulties in your family life, such as separation, death of a loved one or other strains, this could be causing your child to be distracted from their learning.
It’s important to rule out any possible physical or emotional causes of your child’s learning problems, and you should also make sure they have professional hearing and eye tests.
Once you have done these things, and you still believe your child has a learning disability, your next step is to have your child formally examined by a psychologist using standardised tests which compare the person’s level of ability to that which is considered normal development for someone of that age and intelligence.
The types of psychologists qualified to conduct these formal assessments include educational psychologists, paediatric or developmental psychologists, and neuropsychologists.
Your child may also need to see other health professionals such as a speech pathologist.
After detailed assessment, a treatment program will be given to your child that will help to teach learning skills by building on your child’s individual abilities and strengths, while providing strategies to compensate for areas of difficulty.
Psychological treatment will also assist in any behavioural problems, social difficulties and/or emotional problems such as depression or low self-esteem.
There are a lot of different treatments for learning disabilities, but every child is different, so outcomes for individuals will vary greatly.
Research shows, however, that if left untreated, a person with a learning disability can experience a range of negative outcomes in life, including unemployment, social problems, low self-esteem, depression and behavioural issues.
However, a learning disability does not mean the child is destined for a bleak future, because with the right type of help, and support from family, teachers and friends, they can overcome difficulties and go on to be successful adults.
Diagnosis of a learning disability is not the end of the world, it is simply the first step in getting your child the help they need to thrive in school and in the future.

* More information and resources can be found at or


Bill Spooner said...


Have you heard of tinted lenses as a remedy for dyslexia, reading disabilities, rapid eye fatigue when reading, headaches, sore eyes, and poor depth perception? The technique uses precisely prescribed tinted filter lenses to correct perceptual disorders and reading disabilities with some very exciting results.

Prominent educators in the field of Special Education, including Dr Greg Robinson, University of Newcastle, and Dr Paul Whiting, University of Sydney, consider this to be the biggest breakthrough in learning disabilities for more than twenty years. However, it must be stressed that this method does not help every person with reading disabilities. Dyslexia can be auditory or visual or both. Research indicates that over half of the people, both children and adults, who find reading difficult, fatiguing or stressful, can be helped considerably with Irlen Filter Lenses. However, even when it is found that Irlen Filters are of benefit, don’t expect miracles. If there are other Learning Difficulties as well, then these will also have to be remediated.

There are many research articles about the Irlen Filter Lenses and overcoming reading difficulties. A recent major breakthrough in research on dyslexia at Harvard University clearly links disorders in a person's visual system as a major cause of dyslexia. A team of neuroscientists led by Dr Margaret Livingstone reported their research in the prestigious research journal Proceedings of the American Academy of Science. Their findings show that visual dyslexia is a result of the failure of the visual perception system's neuro-circuits to keep proper timing, and that colour filters can correct this imbalance. Even more recently, Dr Jeff Lewine, neuroscientist and scientific director of the Center for Advanced Medical Technologies, of Utah University, using sophisticated instrumentation such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Magnetoencephalography has reinforced these findings
Screeners, who do part of the initial assessment to determine if SSS/IS is present, are located in the following centres: Underwood, Maryborough, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville, Cairns and Kuranda.

Appointments may be made by contacting Bill Spooner on 07 4041 3232, or by contacting the screener or diagnostician near you.

Bill Spooner, or any of the diagnosticians, are prepared to speak at meetings of the public, parent groups, teachers, service clubs and any other groups with an interest in this area. If you would like to organize such a meeting, please ring Bill on 07 4041 3232. 

Irlen lenses are spectrally modified to meet an individual's specific need. There are hundreds of possible variations, and it is only through an intensive diagnostic process that the correct prescription can be determined. Selectively reducing specific wavelengths of light reduces or eliminates interference in the visual pathways in the brain producing sharper, clearer, and more stable vision.

Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome is a distinct type of visual dyslexia. Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome is related to difficulty with light source sensitivity, and colour. Research has shown that 50% of those with reading difficulties suffer from Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome.

This Syndrome often is found in a complex of other learning disabilities such as auditory difficulties, poor handwriting, hyperactivity, eye muscle imbalances, allergies, and emotional overlay from feelings of educational or personal inadequacy..

Often these individuals have been labeled "dumb”, "stupid", or "lazy". This label is usually given to those students who appear bright but are not producing to a level considered appropriate for their intellect. Often parents and teachers become frustrated with such individuals because attempts at remediation produce little gains.

For more information ring Bill Spooner’s Coaching Academy and Irlen Clinic for Dyslexia and Learning Difficulties, on 4041 3232.

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