The goal of this research was to evaluate ways in which learning disabilities affect the mental growth of a child from birth to an age where they can support themselves. With this information paraprofessionals who work with individuals with learning disabilities are better equipped to understand the areas they struggle in and will know how to make specialized education plans that cater to their learning style.
Through my research in psychiatric journals detailing the psychology of young children I learned the ways children struggle with motor skills, reading and language comprehension, and social skills as they grow.
In conjunction with the medical journals I also reviewed our psychology textbook which laid out the typical timeline for a developing child and the milestones they should reach by certain points in their life. I compared points in which disabled students struggled to what students should have learned by that point in the timeline had they not been affected by the disability, to understand the effect the disability has on the child’s development.
In researching this topic, I also learned ways disabilities can be treated and managed.
An effective strategy for treatment is to diagnose as soon as possible, and to intervene early. Early intervention allows you to create learning plans to assist in their education. One method to assist them in their education is to ensure that their focus is directed on a singular task and to reduce distractions in their environment. After reviewing these methods, I was reminded of experiences I have had in my life with people who struggle with these issues.
I feel as if these experiences allow me to easily visualize the difficulties they have, and better understand the effect this has on their everyday life, and how important the assistance is both inside and outside the classroom.
From the time when a child is born, to when they can live on their own, they are shaped by their environment and experiences, and develop a way of thinking that allows them to survive. This comes naturally for most because it is driven by instinct, but for those born with a disability they are at a constant disadvantage. The reason for these delays in development vary and can be caused by harmful substances consumed during prenatal development, or something as simple as genetics passed down through their parents. During the most crucial early stages of development, disabilities cause trouble developing basic motor, social, and language skills. This can cause difficulties with reading, concentrating for extended periods of time, processing auditory and visual sensory information, and hyperactivity. To help keep these children on track, there are many methods to aid them with these issues, however their development is still hindered, and their academic careers still suffer from their disabilities.
In most environments’ language skills are necessary to learn and perform basic tasks, so if someone’s ability to process language is hindered this will have a significant effect on their ability to perform. Language problems that arise at a young age don’t often fully resolve themselves, and usually resurface as more mild versions such as dyslexia. Signs that a child may have been developing a language problem can appear as early as when they are still infants. Typically, during the developmental stages in newborns “by about 18 to 24 months, in the fourth stage of language development, children’s vocabulary tends to grow rapidly. They put words together and form basic sentences of roughly two words” (Grison.150). Children who are born with a language disability however tend to reach this milestone later than 24-months causing frustration in the child as they have problems keeping up with other children. This is the reasoning behind early intervention and why it is so crucial. These problems are then diagnosed by either a pediatrician or a speech pathologist, who can assist parents in properly helping their child, and building an education plan to counteract these issues as much as possible. These alternate paths are so important because most education systems are largely based around building reading and writing skills, which they will struggle with if not assisted. There are also many misconceptions about these kinds of disabilities, like the fact that they are extremely common. For example, for my cousin has dyslexia and even has been medicated for the issue in order to help him focus and improve his reading and spelling. Even though he is being assisted with his issues it was suggested that he avoid trying to learn a foreign language in high school because it may be too difficult for him.
Having disabilities can also make it difficult to read social cues and interact with others. This is because it is hard for those with disabilities to comprehend and interpret what is being said, thus making it difficult to handle basic social interaction. Common social issues that arise from learning disabilities are commanding demeanors, inability to develop meaningful relationships with others, and poor judgement with little consideration of consequences. Throughout development these disabilities influence the growth of the child. The inability to develop meaningful relationships may manifest itself in an infant that does not respond to the care of the mother, which often is a sign that a child may have some form of autism. This lack of stimulation can cause the brain to not develop as it normally should which puts the child at an even further disadvantage. My younger sister has experienced these difficulties as she has ADHD and other difficulties learning. In middle school, although she had some friends, she found it difficult meeting new people her own age as she found it easier to connect with people younger than her. She was bullied because of her inability to focus, and as a result would not do much outside of school. Eventually our parents talked to the school administration and decided that it would be beneficial to send her to a school that specializes in providing extra help for those with learning disabilities. Currently, she has many friends and is extremely happy in school. Children with learning disabilities who have a tough time interacting socially are found to have less developed brains at the same age as those without disabilities. Infants with disabilities lack connection with their caregivers and lack the stimulation necessary to develop basic social skills which negatively impacts their future social ability.
In the early stages of life infants explore the new world around them progressing from crawling to learning to walk. However, Children with learning disabilities have “problems with sensory integration to which all of their learning problems can be attributed…postural, ocular, and bilateral integration, a disorder in the ability or plan and execute motor acts.” (Spielberger.634). In early development, infants with these disabilities are often reaching the milestones in motor function far after children without disabilities. These problems persist into childhood and adulthood and continue to affect them for the rest of their life. This makes learning new physical tasks significantly harder which affects their ability to perform as a student and in the workforce later in life.
As a high school student during the fall soccer season I spent my Sunday afternoons volunteering with an organization that teaches kids with disabilities how to play. In this camp, I worked with children who had difficulties focusing and we taught them how to better direct their attention on a single task. I also worked with children who had trouble with communication, so we used a system that allowed us to use simplistic signs with our hands to communicate. For children with reduced motor abilities we used different equipment to help them, for instance, for students with poor coordination we had a large ball that they could push along and use for support so they could understand how to play soccer while still having fun learning. Although there are many physical accommodations for those with learning and physical disabilities, their potential is largely impacted by their lack of motor skills.
Learning disabilities can have a profound effect on someone’s future success. Although solutions are arising for these problems, they still influence the people who are afflicted by them causes them to have issues with writing, speech, social, and motor skills. These afflictions will cause them to encounter problems in the classroom often having problems maintaining a high academic standard and attaining higher education. These problems then persist into the workplace and cause them to have issues with being promoted into high-level positions within companies. With difficulties in social settings they can have trouble forming connections with others causing a lack of stimulation affecting their mental growth leading them to fall behind in relation to their classmates as well. Problems with motor skills means they face problems in the early stages of life reaching milestones such as the first steps or first words which later means they are not able to perform some tasks and have problems learning a new activity. Although there is increasingly more support for those with learning disabilities, they still have problems learning new skills and often develop at a slower rate due to their difficulty understanding and learning from new situations affecting their performance in the classroom, workforce and social settings.