Submitted by Bob Broudo, Headmaster of Landmark School
Advocates and educators across the country took extra time during this National Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities Awareness Month to increase understanding of learning disabilities, which affect one in seven Americans. Not surprisingly, some inaccurate assumptions still exist related to what learning disabilities are – and aren’t. Let’s look at a few of those and set the record straight.
Myth 1: Learning disabilities are a medical issue.
The medical model of learning disabilities suggests that such disabilities are something to be diagnosed and “fixed.” That mindset only emphasizes the disparity between social conventions and differences in people that should be embraced. Unlike an illness or other medical condition, a learning disability cannot be identified with a simple blood test or X-ray. And because the types of disabilities and severity vary so much from person to person, there also is no one way to help people with learning disabilities address their specific challenges and become successful learners.
Myth 2: Learning disabilities are only in children and can be outgrown.
People of all ages have learning disabilities. It makes sense that children happen to be diagnosed with language-based learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, at school age; that’s the time they are exposed to reading, writing, numbers, and expectations of comprehension. Sometimes the struggles are identified early on, sometimes they are not. In fact, many people might not be formally diagnosed with a learning disability until adulthood.
No matter when a diagnosis is made, learning disabilities do not disappear. However, with the right guidance and help, the effects of a disability can be minimized. People with learning disabilities can be very successful in every aspect of school and work – because they understand what they need to do to adapt their learning processes. Imagine forcing someone to run marathons when he or she is not a marathon runner. That person will likely struggle and fail in every marathon, because his body just isn’t made to handle it. The key to success is to meet students where they are, figure out how they learn best, help them build skills to remediate their weaknesses, and develop the interests students with learning disabilities are good at.
Myth 3: Learning disabilities are only academic in nature.
While learning disabilities are talked about most often in terms of reading, writing, and math, many people also face challenges in other activities and in their social lives. Some children have good verbal skills but are weak in visual and spatial perception, motor skills or organization. Sometimes the barriers causing difficulty in the classroom also affect their ability to participate in sports, to establish friendships, or to get along with peers. But just as with academic challenges, knowing how to work through accompanying struggles can set the stage for success.
What myths can you add to this list? Comment below to tell us what misconceptions you’ve encountered. In the meantime, check out The Truth About Dyslexia and Other Language-Based Learning Disabilities infographic.