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New Research Says Up to 10 Percent of Children Affected by Learning Disabilities

research on learning difficultiesUp to 10 percent of the population is affected by specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and autism, which translates to two or three students in every classroom, according to new research.

Researchers at University College London and Goldsmiths University of London also found that children are frequently affected by more than one learning disability.

According to the researchers, specific learning disabilities (SLD) arise from “atypical brain development with complicated genetic and environmental causes,” causing conditions such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, and language impairment.

While each of these conditions provide a challenge for educators, those challenges are magnified because learning disabilities often “co-occur far more often than would be expected,” the researchers said.

For example, between 33 percent and 45 percent of children with ADHD also suffer from dyslexia, while 11 percent suffer from dyscalculia, which is akin to dyslexia, but with math instead of reading.

“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 than you’d expect based on their prevalence,” said Professor Brian Butterworth of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.

“We are also finally beginning to find effective ways to help learners with one or more SLDs,” he continued. “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 noted that each child has a unique cognitive and genetic profile.

“The educational system should be able to monitor and adapt to the learner’s current repertoire of skills and knowledge,” he said. “A promising approach involves the development of technology-enhanced learning applications, such as games, that are capable of adapting to individual needs for each of the basic disciplines.”

The study was published in Science.

Source: University College London

Boy in school photo available from Shutterstock

New Research Says Up to 10 Percent of Children Affected by Learning Disabilities

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2018). New Research Says Up to 10 Percent of Children Affected by Learning Disabilities. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 19, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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