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Kids' Learning Disabilities May Have Multiple Causes

FRIDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) -- Up to 10 percent of children -- two or three kids in every classroom -- are thought to have learning disabilities, and a new review finds these disabilities have complex causes and suggests possible approaches.

Children frequently have more than one learning disability, the research showed. For example, 33 percent to 45 percent of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also have dyslexia and 11 percent also have dyscalculia.

Dyslexia is a reading, writing and spelling disability while dyscalculia is a math learning disability.

The study, published April 18 in the journal Science, outlines the underlying causes of learning disabilities and the best way to tailor individual teaching and learning for affected children. It also discusses how best to train teachers, school psychologists and doctors who deal with these children.

The researchers said that specific learning disabilities (SLDs) are the result of abnormal brain development caused by complicated genetic and environmental factors. This leads to conditions as dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder and specific language impairment.

"We now know that there are many disorders of neurological development that can give rise to learning disabilities, even in children of normal or even high intelligence, and that crucially these disabilities can also co-occur far more often that you'd expect based on their prevalence," study author Brian Butterworth, a professor at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience of the University College London, said in a university news release.

In one example from the study, it might not be recognized that a child known to have ADHD also has dyslexia. By attributing reading problems to ADHD and treating it alone, teachers may not provide the specific learning program the child needs.

Researchers are "finally beginning to find effective ways to help learners with one or more SLDs, and although the majority of learners can usually adapt to the one-size-fits-all approach of whole class teaching, those with SLDs will need specialized support tailored to their unique combination of disabilities," Butterworth said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about learning disabilities.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University College London, news release, April 18, 2013

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