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Get the Facts About Learning Disabilities

Learn to recognize and accommodate individuals with learning disabilities
It Starts With Recognition

Identifying Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities are common!

1 in 10 Canadians has a learning disability, and each of those individuals is uniquely affected by their learning disability. The impact can range from mild to severe, with some people having more than one learning disability. Around one third of people with a learning disability also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which makes it difficult for them to stay focused on specific tasks.

If you think you’re seeing signs of a learning disability in your child, it’s important to collect observations from families, teachers, doctors and others who are regularly in contact with them. Children can struggle for a number of reasons, so there needs to be a pattern of difficulty before you seek help from the school administration or consult a learning specialist for an evaluation.

What Causes Learning Disabilities?

Experts know that learning disabilities aren’t caused by economic disadvantage, environmental factors or cultural differences. But even though more time and research are going into understanding learning disabilities, experts still haven’t been able to precisely identify what causes them. According to the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, a learning disability might be the result of:


In many cases, learning disabilities run in the family, so it’s not uncommon to find that people with learning disabilities have parents or other relatives with similar difficulties.

External Factors During Pregnancy and Birth

Pregnancy and birth are sensitive times, and external factors like illness or injury can sometimes affect a child’s development, so you should never feel like it’s your fault if your child has a learning disability.

Research shows that drug and alcohol use during pregnancy, low birth weight, lack of oxygen, and premature or prolonged labor can contribute to the development of learning disabilities, but it’s important to remember that even if you have difficulties during pregnancy or birth, it doesn’t automatically mean your child will have a learning disability.

Incidents After Birth

Head injuries, a low-nutrition diet, and exposure to toxic substances like lead can contribute to learning disabilities. Being careful about what your child eats and where they play can help ensure that they’re happy and healthy throughout their journey to adulthood.

How Can You Tell If A Person Has A Learning Disability?

Learning disabilities can affect a person’s ability in areas such as:

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Mathematics

But it isn’t always so easy to put a learning disability into a clearly defined category. That’s why it can be helpful to have other ways to identify whether a person has a learning disability. Here are a few helpful evaluative questions that you can think about:


  1. Is there a clear gap between the level of achievement that’s expected and what’s actually being achieved?
  2. Does spending time around different or new people seem to reveal behavioural difficulties?
  3. As behavioural development continues, are you noticing new difficulties that don’t seem to match up with what you’d expect?
  4. Are there a lot of challenges when it comes to emotional control, social situations, and interpersonal relationships? 
Recognizing When And How To Act

Strategies, Accommodations and Modification

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for learning disabilities. Every strategy needs to consider the type of learning disability, its severity, and how old the individual is as well. A strong support network can be invaluable, so you’ll want to consult with managers and administrators when creating a plan for your school or workplace.

Remember that the law is on your side! Under the Charter of Rights and Freedom and Human Rights Acts of individual provinces and territories, people of all ages with learning disabilities are protected against discrimination and have a right to different forms of assistance in the classroom and workplace.

Don’t be discouraged if things don’t work out perfectly the first time! Finding the most beneficial type of support is a process of trying different ideas and openly exchanging thoughts on what works best.

It’s Never Too Late To Make Changes

Learning Disabilities and Adulthood

Looking for a bit of help managing your learning disability as an adult? Know someone who is? There are testing specialists available for people of all ages, and assistance is available no matter where you are in your life journey. Taking the initiative to seek out support and services is the first step in managing a learning disability.

Many adults – some who aren’t even aware they have a learning disability – have developed ways to cope with their challenges and lead successful lives. That’s the way it should be, because there’s no reason that a learning disability needs to hinder a person from reaching their goals and finding fulfilment.

No matter what the situation is, you should always work to understand which specific techniques and learning strategies can be used to make life with a learning disability more manageable. It’s never too late to make improvements, so start educating yourself on how you can take control and reduce frustration. Trust us – you’ll be glad you did.

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