Learning difficulties: definition and warning signs

the learning difficulties (AD) they include in their definition a heterogeneous set of impairments in reading, writing, arithmetic and general cognitive reasoning skills. These disorders are usually due to a dysfunction of the nervous system and can persist throughout the life process.

Learning difficulties they can manifest simultaneously in both self-regulatory behavior problems and social interaction, As well as by sensory deficits, mental retardation, severe emotional disturbances or concomitant with external influences (such as cultural differences, insufficient or inadequate education, although it is true that AD cannot be caused by any of them).

Therefore, it is understood that there is a gap between actual and expected performance depending on the maturing age of the animal, Reason for which a specialized attention is required which makes it possible to compensate for these difficulties presented / displayed by the student.

Specific learning disability and DSM V

Currently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM V defines the diagnostic category of Specific learning disability distinguish between reading, numeracy and writing skills.

Among the diagnostic criteria, it is emphasized that the subject must present an IC in the average level in relation to his age group, the level determined in one of the three capacities indicated above being clearly lower than the average of the population.

Causes of learning difficulties

There are many different causes that can lead to the manifestation of learning difficulties in the individual, although the main one is derived from internal (neurobiological) factors of the subject such as organic deficits, aspects linked to chromosomal heredity, problems linked to biochemical or dietary alterations or cognitive perceptual and / or motor deficits.

In a second category, they can differentiate the environmental causes linked to the particularities of the family and socio-cultural context which offer few possibilities for cognitive stimulation and limit the development of these capacities in the young.

On the other hand, the characteristics of the educational system to which the pupil is attached may condition a certain level of internalization of basic learning; that is to say that the methodology of work and evaluation of alumni, the quality of training, the physical conditions and the resources of the school, among others, can mark substantial differences.

Finally, the origin of learning difficulties may be due to a mismatch between the individual characteristics of the pupil and the demands he receives from the educational context (as advocated by the interactionist position). This adjustment or type of response offered by the student to a task depends on the interaction of two variables: the child’s level of knowledge and the provision of strategies to solve that task. This way, students with AD usually have the knowledge, but are not able to apply the appropriate strategies for successful execution of the task. This last proposal is the one which enjoys the most theoretical support today.

Influence of AD on child development

Consistent with the above, a very relevant aspect is to understand the maturation, or biological growth of the child, as a dynamic disposition or condition which depends on the neurological, neuropsychological and psychological characteristics of the person, as well as the family. and / or the school environment where development takes place.

The development of people with learning disabilities is characterized by a slower rate of change. In other words, we are only talking about an alteration at the quantitative level, and not qualitatively, as is the case with developmental disorders. The early age differences between children with AD and children without AD can range from 2 to 4 years. Subsequently, these gaps diminish and it can be said that people with AD can reach an acceptable level of competence.

There are several environmental, and therefore modifiable, factors that contribute to the relief or worsening of AD, such as: the richness and adequacy of speech in the family context, high exposure to reading, promotion of play and activities that promote the development of sustained attention, as well as those that facilitate individual decision-making and personal initiative.

Learning difficulties and behavioral disorders

Given the close relationship between DA comorbidity and certain behavioral alterations, it is often difficult to determine which of these two manifestations motivates the other. Usually the two co-occur simultaneously, as in the case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, where the complications presented by the child in information processing and in the regulation of executive functions occur. (or derive from) difficulties in acquiring language. and arithmetic skills.

Numerous studies show that children and adolescents with learning difficulties have other associated emotional and / or behavioral problems of considerable magnitude. This way, AD is worsened, leading to an even more significant deterioration in academic performance. The most common problems are observed in the male population in 70% and in women in 50%, and concern externalizing behaviors such as attention deficits, hyperactivity and cognitive self-regulation, antisocial behaviors, oppositionists or aggressive being less frequent.

Some research argues that the presence of isolated behavioral disorders does not necessarily motivate limitations in the acquisition of early learning in children, although in other cases, where the behavioral deviations begin at an early age, the interrelation between the two phenomena seems more obvious.

Social functioning of children with learning difficulties

Difficulties in social skills are also strongly correlated with the manifestation of AD in children and adolescents, having obtained Kavale I Fornesa a percentage around 75% of the cases in their investigation. At these ages, three are the most significant areas of social relations:

Social relations with peers

As the child develops, with the goal of establishing himself as an independent individual with a defined ‘I’ identity and increasingly detached from parental care and protection, this area is the most influential and the most meaningful to the individual. At this stage, the comparison of one’s own physical and psychological characteristics with those of others, the level of popularity acquired or the perception of social support are determining factors.

When talking about children or adolescents with learning difficulties, these influences become even more noticeable, as it starts with a disadvantage when it comes to adaptive self-concept. For that, in AD, boys are more likely to feel isolated or rejected. In the first, the boy’s motivation must be strengthened so that he has a greater predisposition to acquire interpersonal skills, which help him to be more competent and allow him to better manage the contextual situations in which he interacts. In the second case, prior work must be done on behavioral self-control and emotional management to modify the dynamics of negative interaction to which he is used to running.

Social relations with teachers

In this area, a fundamental part of the type of social relations that the student establishes with the teaching staff is determined by the beliefs presented by the teacher in regard to the student in question.

Thus, the expectations of failure or academic success vis-à-vis the student, the more or less favorable treatment received conditioned by the AD and the level of positive reinforcement administered after the achievement of the objectives by the child will significantly affect more or less positive teaching. conception of the student’s personal competence.

Among the most relevant aspects that influence the difficulties of the social interaction in students with AD can be distinguished as follows: a low competence to internalize the cognitive strategies to be applied to certain contextual demands, a low capacity in the organization natural strategies that allow them to achieve social goals, a vision that is not very empathetic and very focused on their own point of view that prevents them from having a satisfactory understanding of interpersonal relationships and what they involve, an insufficient capacity to detect deviations in the tone of voice which impairs the full understanding of the messages received from the interlocutor and, finally, difficulties in the correct interpretation of non-verbal language in a generic way (gestures, facial expressions, etc.).

Social relations with parents

Having a child with AD is a complication for parents in addition to accepting and understanding the evolutionary changes experienced by the child during his development.

It is very complex for parents to find the balance between exercising excessive control and overprotection when trying to promote the autonomy of the child by leaving behind everything that causes difficulties of control. ‘learning. This problem results in a less tolerant, more critical and less empathetic or emotional attitude which greatly interferes with the good emotional development of the child.

Psychopedagogical intervention in the face of learning difficulties

In order to achieve the two fundamental objectives set for students who present a DA, which aim to improve the emotional state of the student and, in turn, his academic performance, A set of actions at the psycho-pedagogical level is proposed, structured in three consecutive stages:

first stage

First an in-depth analysis must be made of the services that the pupil will need in the school context. to compensate and work on the learning difficulties that he presents both at the level of the establishment of the type of special educational needs he needs, of the specific intervention program which will be established according to his academic level and specific strategies that they will implement – it is set in motion by the teaching staff to promote adequate conception and self-esteem.

Second step

later, contact and the establishment of a direct collaboration with the family are known to be essential, Which must be fully committed to carrying out coordinated work by all parties concerned. To do this, as a first step a psychoeducational phase must be carried out by the team of professionals to help the family understand the nature of AD and the type of actions to integrate into their habits to promote further development. in addition to the positive progress made by the child (positive reinforcements and an empathetic attitude, setting up clear routines, etc.).

On the other hand, it will also be useful to anticipate possible problems in order to determine the strategies to be implemented for their good resolution.

third step

Ultimately, we will work on improving the metacognitive ability of the child, where we will work on aspects such as awareness and acceptance of AD, recognition of their strengths and weaknesses, and a internal attribution style (locus of control) that allows you to exercise active control over the achievement of success in relation to previously established goals.

More specifically, the current lines of psychoeducational intervention in MA are based on three aspects: the teaching of specific learning strategies (simplification of the content), the use of the constructivist perspective (methodology based on Vygotsk’s theory on the area of ​​close development, scaffolding and learning potential) and computer-assisted teaching.

To conclude

As has been verified, the affected areas of the psychological development of the child are very diverse in the presence of a diagnosis of AD. The early detection and intervention of the main agents of socialization (family and school) become essential to favor a positive evolution of the specific case. As with most psychological problems and / or deviations in children, cooperation between both parties is very important during this disorder.

On the other hand, in terms of intervention, It should be borne in mind that not all measures should focus exclusively on improving instrumental learning.Given that the presence of these very generally leads to the development of emotional discomfort (decrease in self-perception, feeling of inferiority, etc.), the approach must also be a priority.

Bibliographical references:

  • Garcia, J, N,. (2001). Learning difficulties and psycho-pedagogical intervention. Barcelona: Ariel.
  • García, JN (1998) (3rd ed. Rev.). Handbook of learning difficulties. Madrid: Narcée.
  • González, R. and Valle, A. (1998). “Affective-motivational characteristics of students with learning difficulties.” In V. Santiuste and JA. Beltrán (coords.): Learning difficulties, 261-277. Madrid: Synthesis.
  • Ortiz González, Ma R. (2004). Handbook of learning difficulties. Madrid: Pyramid.

Leave a Comment