Helping the child with learning disabilities
As soon as you suspect that your child is lagging behind in any area of development, take her to be assessed by a team of developmental specialists â” even if you have to travel. Most large teaching hospitals have a special assessment clinic. (See p. 293 for Centres.)
The earlier remedial work is started the better. Before school and even before nursery school is not too early to practise the skills needed later on.
If any of the predisposing factors described on p. 199 apply to your child, have her checked regularly to ensure she is developing well.
Partial deafness caused by infections such as otitis media can hamper the child’s language development and subsequent ability to express herself and understand precisely what is meant. An auditory test will establish the degree of hearing loss, and a small operation to clear the ears of mucus should improve matters quickly. (See p. 240.)
Allergies such as hayfever can make the membranes of the inner ear swell and the eardrum retract so that there are times when the child has a significant hearing loss. Don’t ignore allergic symptoms – have them treated. (See p. 229.)
Of all the senses, vision requires the largest brain area to control. It is not surprising therefore, that a large percentage of children with learning problems have some visual defect. Correction of the defect results in a marked improvement in the scholastic achievement of childen who show no evidence of minimal brain dysfunction – that means that children whose learning disability is a direct result of poor vision are likely to improve. However, children who have visual defects as well as minimal brain dysfunction are not likely to improve significantly in their learning ability once the visual defect has been corrected. It is worth noting, however, that eye defects are far more common in children with minimal brain dysfunction than in the general population.
In the light of this it is not a good idea to send a child with learning difficulties associated with minimal brain dysfunction for eye exercises in the hope that it will solve the problem, without a complete assessment by a team of specialists, including an ophthalmologist. Special schools for children with learning disabilities have been established, and remedial teachers are available at large schools. Private remedial teachers can fill the gap if there is no specialised help at the school. (See p. 284.)
Occasionally a child who is having problems at school in which she appears to â˜daydream’ and as a result misses out on part of the lessons, has in fact been suffering petit mal epileptic seizures or aphasic attacks. This means that she has â˜blanked out’ for a while without being aware of it. Electroencephalograms (EEG brain scans) can record the brain patterns to show if there is any abnormality, while medication is highly effective in controlling the attacks.