Last updated: March 22, 2019
Topic: EducationSchool
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Medical Conditions that Cause Learning Difficulties:

Learning difficulties are frequently associated with neurological and psychological disorders. Severe general and academic problems may occur due to primary difficulty in learning. Instead of just stating the medical causes of learning difficulties, we shall analyze the three main types of learning difficulties and the causes of each. Learning difficulties can be classified in three major types:

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1. Disorder of Written Expression,

2. Reading Disorder,

3. Mathematics Disorder. People also have learning impairments due to hearing problems, visual problems, motor problems, mental retardation, or due to environmental deprivation.

The main types of disorders, which lead to learning difficulties, are:

1. Reading Disorder:

The cause of reading disorder is under activity in the left superior posterior temporal lobe (planum temporale). Research using functional and structural neuro-imaging techniques, demonstrates that this under activity is evident during reading tasks. It is believed that the planum temporale is a region that is important for phonologic processing. Some genetic investigations have identified possible genes for reading disorder, located on chromosome six and fifteen. Modern research techniques have demonstrated that reading disorder is the result of brain deficits in processing sound units and sound-symbol relationships.

Reading Disorder is considered synonymous with dyslexia, since spelling and reading are related. Persons with reading disorders often have deficits with spelling. Affected individuals have difficulty with phonologic processing. This means that affected persons have deficits in the process of identifying and manipulating individual sounds (phonemes) within larger sound units (morphemes and words). Sometimes, but not often, children may have visualization-comprehension or memory deficits causing reading disorder. Persons with visualization-comprehension weakness often exhibit difficulty visualizing what is being read. The cause of visualization-comprehension weakness occurs because of deficits in visual organization (nonverbal skills.) This is a vital deficit since reading comprehension is based on some visualization. However, in the majority of affected children with reading difficulty is due to the deficits in phonologic processing.

2. Mathematics Disorder:

Mathematical disorders could take various forms and therefore the causes also change. There may be deficits visualizing and visually organizing mathematical concepts and manipulations. Some patients may have short-term or working memory deficits, which can interfere with processing mathematical calculations. The cause of mathematical disorders can be linked to a larger range of causes for learning disorders.

The symptoms of mathematical disorders can vary. Patients can exhibit dyscalculia or acalculia (deficits in mathematical calculation). Dyscalculia patients may over-rely on memory and tangible aids, because they have deficits to mentally calculate arithmetic manipulations. Symptoms in some patients can include deficits in memory (short term and working memory or deficits in visual organization or mathematical concepts).

3. Disorder of Written Expression:

The cause of the disorder of written expression in some persons may be due to deficits in visual-motor integration and motor coordination. Normally disorders of written expressions occur due to deficits in the brain concerning information translation from auditory-oral modality to visual-written modality. The cause of this defect is unknown.

Patients often exhibit spelling deficits that include problems with punctuation, grammar, and development of ideas during writing. Writing samples from persons with disorder of written expression are typically brief, simple, or may be difficult to comprehend because of grammar and punctuation errors. Patients with visual-motor deficits write with so much care that they lose track of their ideas and thoughts.

Additional Needs and Challenges:

There are various additional needs of the pupils with learn disorders. Most cases of learning difficulties can be detected between preschool and second grade. Typically, the onset of learning difficulties is before first grade, often demonstrates developmental delay in learning new concepts at home, or as a delay in performance in school (delay is observed relative to other children and is observed by school officials). If the onset of learning difficulties occurs in early grade school (first or second grade), then observations typically include slow learning and difficulty completing and mastering in schoolwork, which often results in poor grades.

The treatment team typically includes school counselors, education specialists, specialists in learning disorders, school psychologists or clinical psychologists (with advanced clinical training in administration and interpretation of psychological tests (psychometrics). Tests for achievement and intelligence should be administered and interpreted by a clinical psychologist or a school psychologist. Only a duly licensed or certified clinical or school psychologist can administer the recommended psychological tests. A full written report of results and interpretation of results is typically prepared and submitted to the concerned persons. Thus we see that specialized care and treatment is required for pupils with learning difficulties, which is sometimes very challenging.

Learning difficulties are legally defined by Public Law in a law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. The IDEA defines a learning disability as a disorder in written or spoken language that results in an imperfect ability to listen, think, read, spell, write, or do mathematics. The rules and related laws of IDEA state that children with learn disorders should be entitled to free education and special services. Thus there are provisions for special treatment for pupils with learning difficulty set by IDEA. As with any concern, students with learning difficulties should also be handled with love and care so that they to prosper. Famous people considered to have had a learning disability include Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, and Nelson Rockefeller.



1. Frank, Y., and Steven G. Pavlakis. “Brain Imaging in Neurobehavioral Disorders.” Pediatric Neurology 25, no. 4 (October 2001).

2. Kronenberger, William G., and David Dunn. “Learning Disorders.” Neurologic Clinics 21, no. 4 (November 2003).

3. Toppelberg, Claudio O., and Theodore Shapiro. “Language Disorders: A 10-Year Research Update Review.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 39, no.2 (February 2000).

4. Behrman, Richard, E., et al., eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 17th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2004.