Learning Disabilities: What is there to know?
“I can’t change the direction of the wind, I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination”- Jimmy Dean.
As we grow up, we are often told that we must work hard and succeed in school to have a meaningful or good future. We want to achieve certain goals, and different expectations are placed on us by our parents, teachers, and the different communities we come from. When we constantly fail to achieve those certain requirements, they think that we are not putting in much effort, or we start thinking that maybe we are missing something since we cannot demonstrate a skill for an individual of our age. Nevertheless, we ignore that there could be something blocking us from reaching those expectations set for us or achieving those goals we have set for ourselves. Different things could hinder a student or a person in general from performing at the same level as their classmates, or workmates and in this context, we will be focusing on one of those problems, which is a learning disability.
What is there to know about learning disabilities?
Learning disabilities are defined as neurologically-based processing problems that can interfere with learning basic reading, writing, and reasoning skills. They go beyond that and go beyond that and affect other skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short-term memory, and attention. Learning disabilities can affect an individual’s life beyond academics and affect relationships a person holds with their family, friends, and workmates (LDAA, 2002). It can sometimes be easy to recognize a child who has difficulties reading and writing while he/she is still at school; most signs and symptoms of learning disabilities are shown during that time. However, for some people, they only find out while they have reached tertiary education. Some individuals might never find out and keep wondering why they have problems regarding their academics and jobs. So often, people tend to confuse learning difficulties with learning disabilities. Still, they are quite different since one learning difficulty is basically a condition that creates an obstacle to a specific form of learning but does not affect an individual’s overall IQ (MyLife Care, 2018). People with learning disabilities are either average or above-average intelligence, where you find that there is a difference between an individual’s potential and actual achievement, hence the reason why they are called “hidden disabilities” since the person might look intelligent and bright but is not able to demonstrate the skill level expected for someone of their age (LDAA, 2002). It is important to keep in mind that a learning disability can not be cured or fixed. Still, if diagnosed earlier, children with learning disabilities can also succeed in school, work, and different relationships. There are different types of learning disabilities, and each has its own signs and effects; these include; Dyslexia, ADHD, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Processing Deficits.
Read more on the most common types of learning disabilities, click here.
What effect can they have on a person?
A scientific review that was carried out shows that learning disabilities affect up to 10% of the children’s population, and this means two or three pupils in a classroom are most likely to have it. It can be difficult for a child or even an adult to navigate life with this condition since most of the time, children with symptoms of specific learning disabilities are often labeled as lazy, clumsy, or stupid. In some cases, they do not need another person to label, and they might even call themselves “stupid” and believe there is nothing that they could do or could be done to reach the level of their peers and be understood by their peers by the people around them like their parents, teachers, and friends. Thus, they tend to feel misunderstood, which puts them at a greater risk of developing clinical depression. Going through the stress of coping with learning disabilities can lead them to be more frustrated, giving rise to more episodes of depression (Ann Logsdon, 2020). Even though it might be difficult for them to go through these periods and need extra help and support, these things pass with time and by staying active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Behavior problems as a cause of learning disability can be seen in different scenarios. Research suggests that between 24% and 52% of children with learning disabilities also exhibit signs of behavior problems (Douglas Haddad, 2020). There are cases where learning disabilities can lead to behavior problems such as acting out, avoidance, and emotional outbursts. This could lead children to engage in a certain behavior to cover up their problems in school. Multiple examples show these situations; one could be a child having troubles focusing in class might have an outburst and slam their books shut and claim that they cannot read due to too many distractions, or he/ she might refuse to read out loud when asked to by their teacher and throw the book on the floor calling the reading stupid. Children with these behaviors are often seen as troublemakers, leading to their learning disabilities going unrecognized. Several behavior problems can hide a learning disability, including mood swings, impulsiveness, inattention, and defiance. So it is important for a guardian, parent, and teacher to always keep attention on their children and intervene as soon as they see those different signs.
However, with all this information available, why is this problem still a great issue and not yet resolved, and what the government of Rwanda is doing to address this problem and fill in the existing gaps.
The role of key stakeholders
Only one private school in Rwanda started a program that deals with students that have special learning disabilities. Students can access it through a learning support program designed to provide instructional support for students above and beyond normal classroom differentiation. Students receive these services through a 1:1 intervention as well as in-class support (KICS,2020). With the existing schools designed for learning disabilities only focusing on visible ones like Down Syndrome and Autism and also having educators who lack knowledge on how best to accommodate the needs of students with learning disabilities, this school has been able to come up with the right strategies to contribute in minimizing this issue. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education announcing that it plans on including Specific Learning Disability (SLD) in the education system is a positive thing since it will make it easier for students with SLD to perform better. However, the lack of awareness people have regarding this issue is one thing that hinders this progress since some of these people are the parents and guardians of these children.
“There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more.”- Robert M. Hensel.
When you are going through this situation it is inevitable not to feel like what people say about you is the truth especially when you are also seeing it. So many people might give up on you and even tell you that you will not be able to achieve certain things because you’re not able to perform like your peers, but that should not discourage you since there a lot of people who had this condition and they were able to find that one thing that they were good at and ended up excelling hence being the most successful people that so many people in the world idolizes. So don’t give up you can still also find a way to deal with this.
Famous people with learning disabilities. Watch the whole video.
CALL TO ACTION (RECOMMENDATION)
As stated above, two or three pupils in a classroom are most likely to have Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD). With Rwanda having only one school that tackles this issue, it is still a great problem since children who do not attend school do not receive the attention they need due to the lack of knowledge. Rwanda’s government must focus on speeding up the process of including SLD in the education system so that it is easier for all the students who are going through this to receive a quality education. Learning Disabilities affect children in Rwanda, but it is a challenge that is affecting the whole world, and mostly because people are not aware of it. So the Rwandan government needs to raise awareness on this issue in order for those experiencing it receives help.
Jimmy Dean’s quote, though subtle, is a great example of how children or people in general with Specific learning disabilities should navigate through life. Because at the end of the day learning disabilities can not be cured but they can be treated so it is best if people with this condition accept the reality and try to learn how to manage it in order for them to be successful.
Douglas Haddad. (2020, October 14). Children With Learning Disabilities Can Also Have Behavior Problems. Verywell Family. https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-learning-disabilities-can-affect-behavior-2161916
Kigali International Community School. (2020). Student Services. Kigali International Community School: Kigali, Rwanda. https://www.kicsrw.org/student-services
Schoeman, R. (2018, December 6). South Africa’s children aren’t getting the mental health care they need. The Conversation. http://theconversation.com/south-africas-children-arent-getting-the-mental-health-care-they-need-106379