Learning Difficulties

Learning difficulties will first require a psychological assessment with specific tests and questionnaires to formally evaluate intellect, adaptive behavior and affectivity. This generally takes place over two sessions and is always accompanied with clinical observations. The psychological assessment involves administration, scoring, and interpretation of tests. It also requires the psychologist to prepare a written report and meet with parents and preferably with the child/teenager to review the results.

Even with a learning difficulty, people can have good intellectual functioning with an average or higher IQ score, as they developed strategies on their own to cope with a learning difficulty. They may benefit from alternative learning methods as they don’t learn in the same way or as quickly as their peers.

Learning difficulties are evaluated from mild to severe. An individual assessed with a learning difficulty may find the diagnosis difficult to cope with, as might that person’s family. When learning issues have been present for some time, the person assessed may find the diagnosis to be a relief, especially when the diagnosis occurs later in life.

It can be difficult to differentiate between a child struggling with the normal learning process and a child struggling to the point of having a learning difficulty. When these issues become prominent or continuous, it can be an indication of a learning difficulty:

  • Not being able to concentrate for long periods of time

  • Trouble remembering things, short and long term

  • Sequencing problems – remembering the correct order of a story

  • Difficulties reading and/or writing

  • Difficulties with social interaction, levels of appropriateness, sensitivity

  • Tripping over things, excessive clumsiness.

  • For some specific learning difficulties, we will also refer you to a speech therapist:

Dyslexia – primarily affects reading fluency and comprehension, spelling and writing, but may also affect memory, sequencing, spoken language, motor skills and organization.

Dysgraphia- primarily affects writing legibly, space words consistently, spell, compose, think and write at the same time, or plan spatially (on paper), but may also affect handwriting and other fine motor skills.

Dyscalculia – primarily affects the ability to develop math skills, understand numbers, and learn math-based facts, understand and carry out basic mathematical processes, but may also affects  to comprehend math symbols, organize or memorize numbers, tell time, and count.

ADHD – attention deficit hyperactive disorder is not considered a learning difficulty, but around 40% of the children have both ADHD and a specific learning difficulty. ADHD affects the ability to concentrate, sit still, focus on one thing and results in hyperactivity and fidgeting.

ADHD can be greatly improve by meditation and other behavioral methods. Solution-focused counseling may be appropriate for older children and teens who are aware of their difficulties and help them determine what might be working for them and could be improved. Counseling can also be helpful when those with a learning difficulty feel shy, anxious, or otherwise find it challenging to express themselves to others. Because emotional distress can occur as a result, talking through these anxieties in therapy may prove beneficial.

While some learning difficulties are mild, others may have a severe impact on an individual’s academic performance., Behavioral teachings tailored specifically to the type of difficulty can help an individual develop strategies to address and work with a particular challenge and intervention can be of significant benefit. Simply having a learning difficulty does not mean an individual will be unable to succeed academically or hold an intellectually demanding position.

Dr. Elefant-Yanni,
Senior Psychotherapist

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