What are learning difficulties?

Infant and Children | April 7, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

Children

What are learning difficulties?

Learning difficulties are a group of disorders involving significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities. These disorders are specific to the individual, will vary significantly between individuals and are presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction.

Even though a learning disability may occur in conjunction with other handicapping conditions (e.g. sensory impairment, intellectual impairment, social and emotional disturbance or environmental influences (e.g. cultural differences, insufficient/inappropriate instruction), it is not the direct result of those conditions or influences.

Common Features of Learning Difficulties

Verbal: difficulty with spoken and written words.

Common Features of Learning DifficultiesSome people with verbal learning disabilities may be able to read and write adequately but have trouble with other aspects of language (e.g. they may be able to sound out a sentence or paragraph perfectly but they can’t make sense of what they are reading or form a mental picture of the situation they have read about.

 

Non-verbal: difficulty with the act of writing.

This is due to the fact that the brain struggles to coordinate the many simultaneous tasks required. For example, moving a hand to form letter shapes or remembering the correct grammar required in a sentence.

There can also be difficulty processing what is seen. This may involve having trouble making sense of visual details like numbers on a blackboard or confusing the minus or addition symbol in maths.

Additionally there can be difficulties understanding abstract concepts such as fractions.

Difficulties Experienced with Learning Difficulties

  • Slow vocabulary growth, often unable to find the right word.
  • Difficulty rhyming words.
  • Trouble learning numbers, alphabet, days of the week, colours and shapes.
  • Extreme restlessness and easily distracted.
  • Trouble interacting with peers.
  • Difficulty following directions or routines.
  • Fine motor skills are slow to develop.
  • Transposes number sequences and confuses arithmetic signs (+, -, x, /, =).
  • Slow to remember facts.
  • Slow to learn new skills, relying heavily on memory.
  • Impulsive behaviour.
  • Difficulty planning.
  • Poor pencil grip and subsequent handwriting.
  • Trouble learning to tell the time.
  • Poor coordination.
  • Unaware of physical surroundings.
  • Unable to complete tasks within given time frames.
  • Reverses letters or confuses words.

Comparing Specific Learning Disabilities with Learning Difficulties

Comparing Specific Learning Disabilities with Learning DifficultiesThere are many reasons why a child or adult may struggle to learn.

The generic term “Learning Difficulties” refers to the twenty to twenty five percent of students who exhibit problems acquiring academic skills as a consequence of a range of causes. These include: 

  • intellectual disability
  • physical or sensory deficits (e.g. hearing impairment)
  • emotional or behavioural difficulties
  • inadequate environmental experiences

Students may display learning difficulties if they have not been provided with appropriate educational opportunities or have received ineffective instruction in the classroom. Individuals with a primary difficulty in maintaining attention and concentration are also likely to show weaknesses in academic achievement due to their difficulties in attending to the learning environment.

The learning difficulties associated with a ‘Specific Learning Disability’ cannot be attributed to the causes listed above. A specific learning ‘disability’ results from an impairment in one or more of the psychological processes related to learning. The difficulties experienced by an individual with a specific learning disability are unexpected in relation to their other skills. These difficulties are likely to be resistant to intervention and persist into adulthood.

SUPPLEMENTS For Learning Difficulties

Zinc

Children and adults with any type of learning difficulty need to supplement the diet with a high-quality zinc supplement. Low levels of zinc are associated with poor neurological function, poor attention and a variety of motor disorders. One of the leading symptoms of a zinc deficiency is poor neurological function.

B-Complex

People with learning difficulties typically need more B-vitamins to help maintain focus, increase concentration, fight stress, relieve fatigue, balance energy and hormone levels, and produce healthy levels of serotonin. Children and adults should take 50 milligrams daily.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

TOmega 3 Fatty Acidshe omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil supplements, including DHA and EPA, are critical for brain function and are also strong anti-inflammatories. Supplementation appears to reduce symptoms associated with attention difficulties, improve learning and reduce anxiety and depression associated with having learning difficulty or as a direct result of the brain not functioning correctly.

Probiotics

Children and adults should take 25 billion to 50 billion units of probiotics daily. In addition to taking a high-quality probiotic supplement, foods high in probiotics, such as kefir, sauerkraut, raw cheese and yogurt should also be consumed on a regular basis.
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Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a critical role in brain development.  Its function is reflected by the wide distribution of vitamin D receptors throughout the brain, affecting proteins known to be directly involved in learning and memory, motor control, and social behaviour.  Research shows that adequate vitamin D is required to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, where it shapes structure and wiring, and affects social behaviour and has a direct influence on learning.

DIET For Learning Difficulties

DIET For Learning DifficultiesFoods to Include

Unprocessed Foods

Due to the toxic nature of food additives, it is best to eat unprocessed, whole foods. Additives including artificial sweeteners, preservatives and colourings that exist within processed foods may be especially problematic for those with any type of learning issues.

Foods High in B-Vitamins

B vitamins help to maintain a healthy nervous system and are necessary to endorse cognitive thinking, coordination, and memory.  Plenty of organic animal products and lots of green leafy vegetables should be included in the diet.  Vitamin B6 is especially useful for learning difficulties as it is responsible for the body making and using essential brain chemicals including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Incorporate wild tuna, bananas, wild salmon, grass-fed beef and other foods rich in vitamin B6.

Poultry

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that helps the body to synthesize proteins and aid in the production of serotonin. Serotonin plays significant roles in sleep, inflammation, emotional moods and much more. Always choose organic poultry where possible.

Wild-Caught Salmon

Not only is it rich with vitamin B6, it’s also packed with omega 3 fatty acids. Research suggests that individuals with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids have more learning and behavioural problems than those with normal levels of omega 3s. Adults and children should consume wild salmon at least twice per week.

Foods to Avoid

Sugar

Sugar hinders vitamin B absorption into the body and its cells. When there is a lack of B vitamins, blood sugar levels can drop approximately twenty minutes after eating sugar, which leads to a lack of oxygen to the brain.

Foods to AvoidThe lack of oxygen to the brain can cause forgetfulness and affect ability to concentrate and therefore learn.

Sugar also increases adrenaline levels, which interfere with learning as well as increase anxiety and irritability.  The result is an exhausted adrenal system and a consequence of this is the struggle to accomplish daily tasks.

Prolonged diets high in sugar can lead to changes in gene expression.

This affects everything from neurotransmitters to receptors and the basic function of a cell. Studies suggest the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is impacted. This is active in the hippocampus, cortex and forebrain and is vital to learning and memory, as well as supporting existing neurons while promoting the formation of new synapses. This is reduced in high sugar diets.

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References

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http://www.healingourchildren.org/childrens-language-problems-linked-to-vitamin-d-deficiency/

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Haskell CF, Scholey PA, Jackson JM, Elliott MA, Defeyter J, Greer BC, Robertson T, Buchanan, Tiplady B and DO Kennedy.  “Cognitive and mood effects in healthy children during 12 weeks’ supplementation with multi-vitamin/minerals”.  British Journal of Nutrition 100 (2008):1086-1096

Eilander A, Gera T, Sachdev HS, Transler C, van der Knaap HCM, Kok FJ and SJM Osendarp.  “Multiple micronutrient supplementation for improving cognitive performance in children: systematic review of randomized controlled trials. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91(1) (2010): 115-130

https://www.adcet.edu.au/disability-practitioner/reasonable-adjustments/disability-specific-adjustments/specific-learning-disability/learning-difficulty-versus-learning-disability/

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