A new University of Melbourne study suggests that up to 10 per cent of the population is affected by specific learning disabilities (SLDs).
Disabilities include problems with math (dyscalculia), reading (dyslexia) and autism, translating to two or three pupils in every classroom.
Brian Butterworth, Ph.D., believes the study gives insight into the underlying causes of specific learning disabilities and how to tailor individual teaching and learning for individuals and education professionals.
Researchers found children are frequently affected by more than one learning disability and that specific learning disabilities co-occur more often than expected. For example, in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), 33 to 45 percent also suffer from dyslexia and 11 percent from dyscalculia, a learning disability in mathematics.
Butterworth said the results showed there were many neurological development disorders that result in learning disabilities, even in children of normal or even high intelligence.
Specific learning disabilities arise from atypical brain development with complicated genetic and environmental factors, causing such conditions as dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder and specific language impairment.
In the study, researchers reviewed the neural and genetic basis for specific learning disabilities (SLD). They then clarified how these disabilities develop and how school psychologists, clinicians and teachers can improve teaching for individual learners.
The study suggests causes of SLDs are due to difficulties processing speech, language and numbers at a cognitive level.
From a neurological basis, evidence suggests each SLD is associated with an abnormality in a distinct neural network. A single neurophysiological cause may affect distinct regions in the brain, affecting an individual’s learning ability.
“We are also 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.
Source: University of Melbourne