Debunking Common LD Myths

Although significant progress has been made toward raising awareness about learning disabilities, several widely accepted misconceptions persist.  Following are some of the most prevalent myths, along with the facts. Knowing the reality can help parents address concerns early on, when interventions are most successful.

Myth #1: Kids who have trouble learning to read, write, or spell aren’t as smart as other kids.

Fact: By definition, kids with learning disabilities have average or above-average intelligence, but they have difficulty storing, processing, and recalling information. In fact, many of these kids have considerable intellectual, artistic, or other abilities that allow them also to be defined as gifted.

Myth #2: Children who have LD are identified in kindergarten and first grade.

Fact:Learning disabilities often go unrecognized for years; most, in fact, are not identified until a child is in third grade. Bright children may be able to “mask” their difficulties; and some kinds of learning problems may not surface until middle school, high school, or even college.

Myth #3: More boys than girls have learning disabilities.

Fact: Although boys represent 2/3 of all children identified for Special Education with LD, the results of a long-term National Institute of Children’s Health and Human Development (NICHD) study suggest that equal numbers of boys and girls have difficulty with reading, the most common form of learning problem. With girls, learning difficulties often go unidentified and untreated.

Myth #4: When children are suspected of having some kind of learning difficulty, it’s reasonable to wait and see if they will “grow out of” it.

Fact: Learning disabilities are not outgrown, nor can they be “cured.” Although most children with dyslexia do learn how to read, the chance to optimize a child’s reading and comprehension decreases over time, unless the problem is addressed before the age of 10.

Myth #5: If a parent has a nagging sense that there is something wrong with how a child is able to learn, but the teacher reports that everything is fine then the parent is probably mistaken.

Fact: Parents generally know better than anyone whether their child is having significant difficulties. Determining whether a child has LD can only be accomplished through testing by qualified, competent personnel, either within a school or outside it–not by classroom observation or a teacher’s report.

Myth #6: Bright kids described as underachievers in middle or high school generally have emotional problems or just don’t care enough about school to do their best.

Fact: While there are a number of possible causes of underachievement, it is not unusual to find bright kids in high school or even in college with undetected learning disabilities and/or attention deficit disorders, which substantially affect their ability to perform consistently well in school. In any case, underachievement calls for an explanation as to its cause, and appropriate measures to deal with it.

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