5 Common Learning and Attention Difficulties

by Vasti Engelbrecht (Educational Psychologist)

Is your child struggling with reading, writing, maths, attention and/or coordination? This could be due to a learning or attention difficulty. Below are five common learning and attention difficulties:

1) ADHD – difficulty with focus and hyperactivity

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects approximately 11% percent of children and adolescents in Australia. Common signs and symptoms are:
  • Inattention – difficulty concentrating, forgetting instructions, moving from one task to another without completing anything.
  • Impulsivity – talking over the top of others, losing control of emotions easily, being accident prone
  • Over activity – constant fidgeting and restlessness

ADHD is a brain-based medical condition. While the exact causes of ADHD is unknown, research suggests that genetics and the differences in the development of the brain (i.e. brain chemicals and processes) play a role.

If you think your child is showing some of the signs noted above, further assessment may be required. A diagnosis can only be made after a range of information is collected (usually by the parents). The symptoms must present itself in most areas of the child’s life.  If you are concerned about your child, a referral to a Pediatrician or child psychiatrist (made by your GP) is recommended for further assessment.

2) Dyslexia – Difficulty with reading

Dyslexia is one of the most recognised and well-researched learning difficulties. It is known as a ‘language-based’ learning disability or a ‘reading disability’. It affects approximately 10% of the Australian population. “Dyslexia is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding, and poor spelling abilities”.

It is important to know that dyslexia is not caused by low intelligence or poor vision. It is an issue that affects the way the brain processes written and spoken language. Out Psychologists at Brilliant Minds Psychology are able to offer such an assessment and provide the necessary recommendations to support your child.

3) Dyscalculia – Difficulty with maths

Dyscalculia is sometimes called ‘mathematics learning disability’. It is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of difficulties characterised by problems processing numerical information, learning arithmetic facts, and performing accurate or fluent calculations.

This difficulty can go easily undetected during the early years as many children learn basic maths skills through memorization. Research knows less about dyscalculia than they do about about other leaning difficulties, however; they are currently looking more at the causes of dyscalculia and ways to help.

4) Dysgraphia – Difficulty with writing

Dysgraphia is a learning disability where a student has difficulty putting thoughts into writing, despite good oral language skills. Symptoms of dysgraphia include well below average writing speed, illegible handwriting, inefficient processing of writing tasks; including complications with grammatical expression, confusion with punctuation and capitals, letter reversals, and leaving out words or letters. Children with dysgraphia also demonstrate a high degree of self-correction where they produce letters or words rather than writing down pre-planned ideas.

Dysgraphia is not related to how intelligent a child is. It is a brain-based issue that can affect a student’s ability to put thoughts down on paper.

5) Dyspraxia – Difficulty with motor skills

A student with Dyspraxia may experience difficulty with planning and coordinating physical movement. Different types of Dyspraxia includes:
* Motor - causing problems with things like writing, dressing or skipping
* Verbal - causing problems with speech
* Oral - causing problems with movements of the mouth and tongue.

Dyspraxia is not a sign of muscle weakness or of low intelligence. It is common in children who experiences difficulty with grasping a pencil, manipulating buttons or with games/tasks that involve hand-eye coordination. Experts say that about 10% of people have some degree of dyspraxia, while approximately 2% have it severely. 4 out of every 5 children with evident dyspraxia are boys. If the average classroom has 30 children, there is probably one child with dyspraxia in almost each classroom.
Although dyspraxia is not curable, with time the child can improve. However, the earlier a child is diagnosed, the better and faster his/her improvement will be. Usually, the specialists most commonly to help people with dyspraxia are Occupational Therapists and Speech and Language Therapists.

Sourced and adapted from:

* http://dyslexiaassociation.org.au

* https://www.understood.org

* http://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/ADHD_an_overview/

* https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dyspraxia