What is a Learning Challenge?

A learning challenge results from a difference in the way a child’s brain is “wired” [Brain & Life Magazine re Neurology Today]. Children may have difficulty reading, writing, spelling, reasoning, recalling and/organizing information if left to figure things out by themselves or if taught in conventional ways. A learning challenge can be remediated with appropriate intervention, strategies and different types of remedial education; as: one-to-one tutoring; private tutoring, specialist tutoring, etc.

It is often difficult based on observed behaviors to distinguish between slow learners and children with learning challenges. A child with learning challenges may have deficits in one or two areas while performing at or above the average standard in other areas. The child’s potential or overall intelligence is greater than his/her poor achievement would predict. This is called the ability-achievement discrepancy. The term discrepancy refers to a mismatch between a child’s intellectual ability and his/her progress in school. The challenge with this ability-achievement discrepancy is that it can identify kids too late. Students with learning differences often struggle in the early grades. But they rarely show a large enough discrepancy on test scores to be “officially” identified with a learning difference. It is generally not until third or fourth grade that the work gets hard enough for the discrepancy to become large enough. This can lead to a “wait to fail” situation: Children do not receive help until they are doing poorly in school.

Actual diagnosis of a learning challenge can be diagnosed by a trained professional; clinical psychologists, educational psychologist and some physicians who are trained in this field.

The last reference raises serious questions about whether an ability-achievement discrepancy is a valid definition of a reading challenge. Well –replicated research has demonstrated that a core deficit for reading disabled individuals – both children and adults- is phonemic awareness (the ability to understand how sounds and sound patterns work in our language system).

How Common are Language-based Learning Challenges?

According to the International Dyslexia Association and Learning Challenges Association of American, about 15% of the population (close to one in seven) has a learning challenge. Of the students with learning challenges receiving special education services, 70-80% have deficits in reading.

Does A Learning Challenge Mean You Have a Low IQ?

No. People with learning challenges are generally of average or above-average intelligence and struggle in one or two areas where they need remedial educational help. Learning Challenges, by definition, mean a person’s skills in a particular area (reading, math visual/auditory processing, etc). are lower than would be expected by looking at the person’s overall IQ.

According to the National Library of Medicine: “IQ is irrelevant to the definition of learning disabilities” In this article it was argued that IQ scores measure factual knowledge, expressive language abilities, and short-term memory, among other skills and that because children with learning disabilities have deficits in these areas, their scores may be spuriously low. It was also shown that some children with low IQ scores can be good readers, indicating that the low IQ scores does not necessarily result in poor reading. [Pub Med.Gov.]

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