- Minal Abidi
Understanding Learning Disabilities
Learning disabilities are extremely complex. Although they are relatively common, with at least 1 in every 5 children experiencing them (Understanding Learning and Attention Issues), the complexities of learning disabilities cause the production and spread of harmful misconceptions.
In order to progress past false views of learning disabilities, it is important for everyone -
parents, students, teachers, and employers alike - to understand learning disabilities.
What are learning disabilities?
A key part of understanding learning disabilities is learning about what they are and their
implications. A learning disability is a brain-based difficulty with learning abilities, including
reading, writing, math, focus, amongst others. It is important to note that these disabilities are not caused by low intelligence; the causes are genetics, toxin exposure, and adverse
experiences during childhood (“Understanding Learning and Attention Issues”).
Learning disabilities affect many, if not every aspect of learning.
What are common learning disabilities?
Some of the most common learning disabilities are dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia. All of these issues can impact close to every aspect of life. Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects english processing skills, dyscalculia impacts math comprehension, and dysgraphia influences motor skills and handwriting (“Types of Learning Disabilities”).
What do they entail?
The most obvious implication of learning disabilities is in an academic setting. According to the National Center of Learning Disabilities, learning disabilities make it hard for students to
succeed. Children with learning disabilities often do not receive additional attention to ensure their understanding of core concepts. This shaky foundation not only has a negative effect on future learning, but it can also lead young students to repeat a grade. Being held back a year is shown to increase the risk of dropping out (“Understanding Learning and Attention Issues”).
Another issue found in the school is school discipline. Students with disabilities are twice as
likely to be suspended. The work missed during suspension can lead to school failure and
school aversion (“Understanding Learning and Attention Issues”).
Outside of school, issues caused by disabilities can result in conditions that force people into
the prison system. A shocking study found that at least half of young adults with learning
disabilities have faced the justice system. Furthermore, studies from 2009-2012 revealed almost half of jail inmates were reported to have at least one disability; jail inmates are “more than 4 times more likely than the general population to report having at least one disability” (Bronson and Maruschak). An additional result of the issues caused by disabilities is unemployment.
Adults with learning disabilities are twice as likely to experience unemployment than others
(“Understanding Learning and Attention Issues”).
What are some misconceptions I should correct?
Almost half of parents believe that children can grow out of learning disabilities. The reality is
that only the symptoms of learning disabilities can fade away; the disability itself is rooted in
brain processes, so it is not something that can just vanish (“Understanding Learning and
Attention Issues”). This view is harmful because it implies that learning disabilities do not have a lifelong influence on an individual and their lives.
By the same token is the myth that any child can succeed if they put enough effort. This is
incorrect for a number of reasons. Factors like learning disabilities invalidate the idea that
pushing oneself will ensure success. Moreover, this myth perpetuates a harmful mindset for
students that can result in burnout, which is essentially a loss of motivation. Children with
learning disabilities need interventions to help them fully grasp concepts (“Understanding
Learning and Attention Issues”).
What do I do with this information?
Keep these facts in mind before categorizing someone as “lazy” or “unintelligent.” Support
everyone, especially children, who you know that has a learning disability. Make sure to
advocate for them and the attention they may need. Finally, correct whatever misconceptions you or people around you may have.
“Understanding Learning and Attention Issues.” 20 Nov. 2019,
“Types of Learning Disabilities.” Learning Disabilities Association of America,
Bronson, Jenniffer, and Laura M. Maruschak. “Disabilities Among Prison and Jail Inmates,
2011-12.” Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), Bureau of Justice Statistics, 14 Dec. 2015,