Q&A with Australian Health Experts
What are the characteristics of learning difficulties?
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All children with learning difficulties will present with different strengths and areas of difficulty. Conversations with your child’s classroom teacher as well as with your school’s learning support teacher will provide you with valuable information about how your child is performing within the classroom environment. The Learning Difficulties Coalition suggests the following as common characteristics to look for in children with learning difficulties:
- Average to above average general ability, but with under-achievement in some learning areas.
- Difficulties with the development of literacy skills: reading accuracy and comprehension, spelling, written expression.
- Difficulty with “multi-modal” tasks, such as listening to the teacher at the same time as copying from the board or making something.
- Taking longer than other children to carry out and complete a task.
- Trouble remembering ideas in sequence such as times tables or the words to a song.
- Difficulty concentrating and paying attention, and easily distracted.
- Memory problems e.g. can’t follow instructions especially if there are many parts, can’t remember newly learned information such as Maths concepts.
- Organisation difficulties e.g. a poor concept of time, or forgets to bring the right equipment to class.
- May have a history of delayed developmental milestones e.g. speech and language, or motor skills.
- May have a family history of learning difficulties.
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Learning difficulties prevent an individual from accessing the normal school curriculum and prevent him/her from achieving at his/her potential. They are often evident in language problems - a child may struggle with listening, speaking, reading or writing, or a combination of these language skills. There may be fine motor or gross motor problems which will impact on a child's learning - e.g. fine motor skills will make writing, drawing, painting, cutting out, colouring in, woodwork and metalwork difficult in a school environment. Gross motor issues will impact on a student's ability to participate successfully in PE and sporting activities. Cognitive difficulties may be evident in the student who is unable to process information in a timely manner in a classroom situation. This delay in processing will make it hard for the student to keep up with classroom activities, follow instructions competently, absorb new content and therefore learn the content and be able to recall it. Students may also be unable to concentrate and sustain focus for long periods of time. This inattention means they are missing huge chunks of learning time and they are underachieving. Poor organisational skills are another manifestation of learning difficulties. Students who have no systems for recording and storing their work, for tracking timetables for each school day and for due dates for assignments and assessments will typically achieve poorer results than they are capable of. It is important to be aware that learning difficulties are not aligned to IQ/intelligence levels - children (and adults) with all levels of intelligence, including those in the Gifted and Talented range, can have difficulties with their learning.
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