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By Dr. Sarah Talebizadeh, Psy.D. C.Psych. 

19 May, 2020

Adopted by the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAO) January 30, 2002 A Learning Disability is defined as a disorder, which may affect the acquisition, organization, retention, understanding or use of verbal or nonverbal information. Impairments in processes related to learning (language processing; phonological processing; visual spatial processing; processing speed; memory and attention; and executive functions) can interfere with learning in individuals who otherwise demonstrate at least average intellectual abilities and learning potential. 

Learning disabilities range in severity and may interfere with academic achievement in areas such as; oral language (e.g. listening, speaking, understanding); reading (e.g. decoding, phonetic knowledge, word recognition, comprehension); written language (e.g. spelling and written expression); and mathematics (e.g. computation, problem solving).  Learning Disabilities maybe suggested by chronic academic underachievement or academic achievement maintained only by unusually high levels of effort and support.  It is important to mention that individuals with Learning Disability can and do learn but just do it differently.  Learning Disabilities can be compensated through academic support and accommodations.  

The cause of Learning Disabilities remains unknown.  However, often learning disabilities run in the family or maybe acquired through illness or injury during or before birth of a child. They may also be caused by drug and alcohol use during pregnancy, low birth weight, lack of oxygen and premature or prolonged labor. Head injuries, nutritional deprivation and exposure to toxic substances (i.e. lead) can contribute to learning disabilities after birth. 

According to LDAOC, 1 in 10 Canadians has a learning disability while approximately one third of people with LD also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is defined as a neurobiological disorder characterized by inattentiveness, over-activity, impulsivity, or a combination.  Symptoms begin in a young age and for some people could continue into adulthood.

According to a recent research study called The mental health of Canadians with Self-Reported Learning Disabilities (Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 42, No. 1, 24-40 (2009)), people with Learning Disabilities were more than twice as likely to report high levels of distress, depression, anxiety disorders, suicidal thoughts, visits to mental health professionals, and poorer overall mental health than were persons without disabilities.   These psychological / emotional issues could arise because individuals with Learning Disabilities could face challenges in several areas of life, including education, employment, social interactions, daily routine and activities.  Despite these challenges, some individuals with Learning Disabilities can lead very successful lives.   

It is never too late to get help for Learning Disabilities.  Understanding your unique cognitive profile, learning challenges and strength can help you in school as well as work and lead to a higher quality of life.  For individuals who have not been formally tested or diagnosed, the first step is to pursue a proper assessment by a qualified professional.    

Dr. Sarah Talebizadeh, Psy.D. C.Psych. 

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