2022 Brendan Symposium Session 1 - Monica McHale-Small - Defining Learning Differences

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Leaning Disabilities Association of America

Navigating Learning Differences

Monica McHale-Small, Ph.D.

Difference vs. Disability Does it matter?

Learning Differences • Many people prefer to use the terminology "learning differences" or "learning challenges" instead of "learning disabilities". • Can also be used as an umbrella term for disorders that can impair learning.

DSM-5 Neurodevelopmental Disorders Intellectual Disabilities Communication Disorders Autism Spectrum Disorder Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Specific Learning Disorder Motor Disorders Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders

What is Autism?

• Individuals with autism often suffer from numerous comorbid medical conditions which may include, sensory integration dysfunction, attention disorders, sleeping disorders, and more • Autism is diagnosed four times more often in boys than girls. Its prevalence is not affected by race, region, or socio-economic status. Since autism was first diagnosed in the U.S. the incidence has climbed to an alarming one in 44 children in the U.S.

• Autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that generally appears before the age of 3 • Autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills, and cognitive function. Individuals with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities

What is ADHD • ADHD is characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. • ADHD is characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivityimpulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. • ADHD can result in impaired learning, behavioral and emotional dysregulation, social skills deficits and executive function impairment.

What Are Learning Disabilities • IDEA • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides that “specific learning disability” means “a disorder in 1 or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. • DSM 5 • Difficulties learning and using academic skills…that have persisted for at least 6 months despite the provision of interventions that target

• As such, learning disabilities are distinct from global intellectual deficiency. Learning disabilities result from impairments in one or more processes related to perceiving, thinking, remembering or learning.

• These include but are not limited to: language processing; phonological processing; visual spatial processing; processing speed; memory and attention; and executive functions (e.g., planning and decision-making).

• Learning Disabilities refer to a number of disorders which may affect the acquisition, organization, retention, understanding or use of verbal or nonverbal information.

• These disorders affect learning in individuals who otherwise demonstrate at least average abilities essential for thinking and/or reasoning.

Learning Disabilities Association of America

• Developmental learning disorder is characterised by significant and persistent difficulties in learning academic skills, which may include reading, writing, or arithmetic. The individual’s performance in the affected academic skill(s) is markedly below what would be expected for chronological age and general level of intellectual functioning…

ICD 11

• Individuals with Developmental Learning Disorder typically show impairments in various underlying psychological processes that may include phonological processing, orthographic processing, memory (including working memory), executive functions (including inhibitory control, set-shifting, planning), learning and automatizing symbols (e.g., visual, alphanumeric), perceptual-motor integration, and speed of processing information. Deficits in these psychological processes are presumed to underlie a child’s ability to learn academic skills.

Dyslexia Defined

• “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

• ~International Dyslexia Association 2003

Dysgraphia • Impaired legible and automatic alphabet letter • writing (handwriting) which may interfere with learning to spell and compose, • and legible and accurate numeral writing, which may interfere with written math. • Berninger, V. & Wolf This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY

Oral-Written Language Disorder • Selective language impairment (SLI), language learning disability (LLD), or oral and written language learning disability (OWL LD) (all synonyms) exist in children who are overall within normal range for five domains of development including language, but are impaired in multi-word (syntactic and morphological) processing or production. (Berninger) • Specific Reading Comprehension Disorder, specific weaknesses in accessing lexicalsemantic representations during word recognition which hinders comprehension. (Cutting, Nelson, Plante) This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY

Dyscalculia or math disability • Difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as difficulty in understanding numbers and quantities, learning how to manipulate numbers, performing mathematical calculations and learning facts in mathematics. This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY

Communication Disorders • Disorders of communication include deficits in language, speech, and communication. • Speech includes articulation, fluency, voice, and resonance quality. • Language includes the form, function, and use of a conventional system of symbols in a rule-governed manner for communication. • Communication includes any verbal or nonverbal behavior (whether intentional or unintentional) that influences the behavior, ideas, or attitudes of another individual. This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY SA NC

Comorbidity • Many individuals with ADHD have comorbid learning disabilities. • Some research has indicated almost 50 percent of individuals with dyslexia also have ADHD. • Autism and ADHD often co-occur. • Individuals with learning disabilities often have comorbid language disorders. • Individuals with autism often have struggles with language and communication. • Executive function impairments are common with all.

Resources • Learning Disabilities Association of America • Understood, Through Your Child's Eyes • National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities • CHADD.org • American Autism Foundation • American AssociationSpeech-Language-Hearing(ASHA)

Thank you! monica@ldaamerica.org

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