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Is It Possible To Prevent Learning Disabilities?


What causes learning disabilities?

Specific learning disabilities are caused by differences in the brain that affect how you process information, whether it is written or spoken, and abilities like how you listen, think, speak, read, write, spell and perform mathematical calculations.  

So what do we know about the brain that explains why this occurs? 

With new technologies, scientists have been able to identify brain growth patterns, ages of cognitive capacities, and are beginning to identify areas of the brain designed by genetics versus those that are developed over time. (Click here to read more about these studies). Although we are learning more about the brain and how it grows/functions, we are just now beginning to connect these findings with disabilities and disorders. We need more studies to explain how brains are developed under certain conditions, ways to support and grow brains at specific age levels, and how this all connects with learning disabilities and disorders. 

With all the research and studies on the brain, there have been no discoveries that suggest how to prevent these differences in the brain. There have been several factors that are linked to the cause of learning disabilities which include drug or alcohol use during pregnancy, environmental exposures such as lead (Healthy Children’s Project), and family genetics. Even with a level of dedication to healthy practices, you cannot change genetics. Meaning, it is highly unlikely that anyone can prevent biological roots of learning disabilities. However, it is possible with early diagnosis and appropriate, science-based interventions that learning deficits are lessened to a result of learning struggles rather than a disability. There is hope that with more brain studies, we can find best practices to help grow and strengthen the brain to overcome challenges in this arena. 

Watch for Early Signs

If you know there is a family history of learning disabilities, you might be on high alert as you watch your children grow and develop. There are some early signs of a learning disability but remember that all children learn at different rates. Comparing skills between different kids is not recommended. Most parents recognize the signs of a learning disability at school age – around five years old. 

Here are some common signs of learning disabilities by age level. 

For a list of more signs, visit LDA America.

Remember, if your child is struggling to learn their letters or colors they may still be on track to accomplish this skill within the next few months. One way to keep an eye on skills you suspect your child is struggling with is to keep notes that document when they started having difficulty and how they have progressed or remained stagnant. If professionals know strategies you have tried at home, they will know how to move forward. Be sure to document those as well. 

Moving Forward

When you’re ready to seek help in identifying a learning disability or to get another perspective, follow up with your pediatrician to express your concerns. Review the detailed notes you have been collecting along with interventions you have tried at home. They will be able to answer some questions and pass along any specialists they believe would help in your situation.

If your child is in school, contact your child’s teacher and ask for a meeting. During the meeting inquire about any evidence that might support any concerns regarding performance. Ask if there are any school professionals that can test for learning delays or disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act includes the Child Find mandate. Schools are required to locate, identify and evaluate all children with disabilities from birth through age 21. (20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(3))

If your child is beyond school years, here is some information regarding signs of a learning disability in an adult and testing assessments from LDA America.

Even though learning disabilities are not preventable, early diagnosis is the key to success. If you have recently had a child diagnosed with LD, take a look at our blog – Parent of a New Learning Disability Diagnosis for information and support.

Additional Resources

Parent of a New LD Diagnosis

Healthy Children’s Project

LDA of America