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Learning disabilities

The Globe and Mail (Toronto) reported Oct. 1, 2003 that an estimated three million Canadians suffer from learning disabilities (LD). People with LD are not stupid; they simply learn and retain information differently. The most common of the 70 LDs are dyslexia -- difficulty in reading, writing, spelling and math -- and auditory processing disorders. An LD may also be indicated in a person with problems of attention, memory, reasoning, coordination, social competence and emotional maturity. Learning disability is a neurological disorder of uncertain cause, due to either genetic or environmental factors, such as prenatal exposure to toxic substances. Scientists say dyslexia has to do with the way the brain is wired.

Learning disabilities can happen in four areas of learning:

-- Recording information in the brain (input). Learning depends on the brain correctly perceiving what is seen or heard (visual or auditory input).

-- Understanding information (integration). Once recorded, information must be put in the right order (sequencing), understood in context (abstraction) and integrated with other information (organization).

-- Storage and retrieval (memory). Information must be stored so that it can be retrieved, either quickly (short-term) or later (long-term). A child may have short-term memory disability or long-term memory disability.

-- Communicating or taking action (output). You communicate information by words (language output) or by actions such as writing, drawing and gesturing (motor output). A child might have one or both output disabilities.

It's observed that adoptees are more likely to have LD than non-adoptees. Why? David M. Brodzinsky, professor of clinical and developmental psychology at Rutgers University, posits three possible reasons:

-- They are more biologically pre-disposed to LD (because people who relinquish children are more prone to have a genetic basis that includes learning problems).

-- Young women try to deny their pregnancy for a long time and don't alter their habits of smoking, drinking or drugs. These prenatal conditions, plus abuse or neglect in the child's early months, set the stage for later difficulties, including LD.

-- The learning problems may not be neurologically based but emotional -- maybe a child spends a lot of time thinking about his adoption and doesn't pay attention in class.

You should understand your child's areas of learning disabilities as well as her abilities. Appreciate how the disabilities interfere with school tasks, sports and personal relationships. Help your child build on her strengths; don't build frustration by focussing on weak areas. There is good coverage of learning disabilities in Adoption Goes to School by Robin Hilborn.

ADD Internet Links Project, 696 links to ADD/ADHD web sites. Includes learning disabilities, autism.
Adoption Goes to School, Language development. Learning disabilities. Teacher's Guide. School issues your child will face. ADHD and the school system. Robin Hilborn, Family Helper.
BGCenter, Center for Cognitive-Developmental Assessment, Rehabilitation and Training. Boris Gindis,, director. English/Russian psychological services for children adopted from Eastern Europe and Russia. Pre-adoption document review; psycho-educational evaluation.
Canadian Dyslexia Assn., All about dyslexia. Ottawa ON.
Developmental Delay Resources, Links to causes of developmental delays, e.g. ADD, allergies, autism, diet, drugs, vaccines.
Dyslexia Awareness and Resource Center, Raising awareness of dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder. Santa Barbara CA.
Gap Academy, School for preteens and adolescents with learning disabilities. Toronto ON.
International Dyslexia Assn., Baltimore MD.
Justin Eves Foundation, Funding for learning-disabled students and for research into LDs. Toronto ON.
LD Assn. of America, Links to state assns. Pittsburgh PA.
LD Assn. of Canada, Links to Canadian LDAs and provincial resources. Ottawa ON.
LD OnLine, LD in depth; research, articles. Dr. Silver answers questions. WETA, Washington DC.
LD Resource Community, National forum for exchanging ideas and information about LDs. Toronto ON.
LD/ADD Info, All about LD and ADD. Vancouver Island Invisible Disability Assn., Victoria BC.
LD: Glossary of Some Important Terms, Jean Lokerson, ERIC Digest 352780, 1992.
Learning Disabilities, LD treatment options, strategies for coping, sources of information and support. Booklet, U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, 1993.
Learning Disability Resources, Resources for disorders in reading, writing, math, learning., 2010.
Learning Lag, Learning Problem, or Learning Disability?, Child Welfare Information Gateway, 1993.
National Center for LDs, Support for children and adults with LDs. New York.
NLD on the Web, Nonverbal LDs. Pamela Tanguay, Tolland CT. Joan Scott, Montreal.
NLDA, Nonverbal Learning Disorders Assn. West Hartford CT.
NLDLine, Nonverbal LDs.
PACER Center, Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights. Minneapolis MN.
Speak, Read, Succeed Interactive Checklist, Checklist of questions to assess your child's speech problems. Richmond BC Public Library.
Special Education Resources on the Internet, Links to special education sites, inc. LD, ADD, autism. Roseann Horner.
Special Needs Ontario Window, Resource for special education pedagogy and technology. Univ. of Toronto.
Speech and language development in children adopted from China, Karen E. Pollock, Univ. of Alberta.
Wrightslaw, Articles and cases about special education law and advocacy for children with disabilities.


Anderson, Chitwood, Hayden, Navigating the Special Educational Maze.

Bloom, Jill. Help Me to Help My Child: A Sourcebook for Parents of Learning Disabled Children. 1990.

Brady, Joanne, and Grollman, Sharon. Risk and Reality: Teaching Preschool Children Affected by Substance Abuse. 1994.

Cline, Foster W. Learning Disorders and School Problems. Evergreen CO, 1979.

Conry, Julie. Teaching Students with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Effects: A Resource Guide for Teachers. Ministry of Education and Training, Special Programs Branch. Victoria, B.C. 1996. Crown Publications 250-386-4636.

Davis, Ronald D. The Gift of Dyslexia. Berkeley Publishing, New York, 1997.

DeQuiros/Schrager, Neuropsychological Fundamentals in Learning Disabilities.

Edger, Clay. Effects of Vision on Learning and School Performance.

Evensen, Debra. Integrated Active Learning and the Child With FAS/FAE: Help for Tired Teachers. 1994.

Fisher, Gary, and Cummings, Rhoda. When Your Child Has LD. (Learning Differences)

Gindis, B. (1999). Language-related issues for international adoptees and adoptive families. In T. Tepper, L. Hannon, & D. Sandstrom (Eds.) International adoption: Challenges and opportunities. Meadowlands, PA: PNPIC.

Hilborn, Robin. Adoption Goes to School. Family Helper, 2004. Language development. Learning disabilities. School issues your child will face. Dealing with racism. Biased class assignments. FAS and ADHD. Teacher's Guide.

Kavner, Richard S., Your Child's Vision, Simon and Schuster.

Ng, Nancy Sheehan and Wood, Lansing. Adoption and the Schools. Vol. 1: Educating the Educators: A Resource Manual for Parents, and Vol. 2: Understanding Adoption: A Guide for Educators. FAIR (Families Adopting In Response), Box 51436, Palo Alta CA 94303. 1993. Guide on how to handle adoption-related issues in the classroom.

Orenstein, Myrna. Smart But Stuck: What Every Therapist Needs to Know about Learning Disabilities and Imprisoned Intelligence. Haworth Press, 1999. 800-3429-6784. Learning gaps in children and adults; detection and diagnosis of learning disabilities; new treatments. Enables social workers, psychotherapists and educators to help clients.

Patton, James. Teaching Science to Students with Special Needs. 1995.

Rosner, Jerome. Helping Children Overcome Learning Difficulties. Walker and Co.

Schneider, P., and Watkins, R. V. (1996). Applying Vygotskian developmental theory to language intervention. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 27, 157-170.

Silver, Larry B. The Misunderstood Child. A Guide for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities. New York, McGraw-Hill. 2nd ed., 1992.

Stevens, Suzanne H. The LD Child and the ADHD Child. John E. Blair, Winston-Salem, NC, 1997.

Tepper, Thais; et al, eds., International Adoption: Challenges and Opportunities. 1st. ed., 1999. Parent Network for the Post-Institutionalized Child. Authorities on adoption discuss: Risks of Adopting an Institutionalized Child; Health Needs Of Your Institutionalized Child; Alcohol-Related Birth Defects and International Adoption; Ames Study; Risk Factors for Speech and Language Development.


Council for Learning Disabilities, Box 40303, Overland Park KS 66204, 913-492-8755.

Family Resources Center on Disabilities, 20 E. Jackson Blvd., #900, Chicago IL 60604, 312-939-3513.

Integra, 25 Imperial St., Toronto ON M5P 1B9, 416-486-8055,, A children's mental health facility helping children with ADD or LD-related social, emotional and behavioural problems. Summer camp for Toronto-area children 10-18.

International Dyslexia Assn., #382, 8600 La Salle Road, Baltimore MD 21204, 410-296-0232. Research, associations, technology and legislation on dyslexia.

Kitty Petty ADD LD Institute, 410 Sheridan Ave., #339, Palo Alto CA 94306-2020,, Supporting children, youth and adults with ADD/LD.

Learning Disabilities Assn. of America, 4156 Library Rd., Pittsburgh PA 15234, 412-341-1515

Learning Disabilities Assn. of Canada, 323 Chapel St., #200, Ottawa, Ont. K1N 7Z2, 613-238-5721,,

Learning Disabilities Assn. of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, 306-652-4114, Offices throughout Saskatchewan.

Learning Disabilities Assn. of Toronto District, 203-121 Willowdale Ave, Toronto M2N 6A3, 416-229-1680,, Chapter of Learning Disabilities Assn. of Ontario, serving Toronto. Merger of LDA of North York and Toronto.

National Clearinghouse For Professionals in Special Education, #320, 1800 Diagonal Road, Alexandria VA 22314, 703-519-3800.

North American Council on Adoptable Children, 970 Raymond Ave., #106, St. Paul MN 55114-1149, 651-644-3036,,

Ontario Assn. of Infant Development Programs, 6660 Kennedy Rd., #200, Mississauga L5T 2M9, 905-564-7485.

Ontario Assn. of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists, 410 Jarvis St., Toronto M4Y 2G8, 416-920-3676.

Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists, 55 Eglinton Ave. E., Toronto M4P 1G8, 416-322-3011.

Parent Network for the Post-Institutionalized Child, Box 613, Meadow Lands PA 15347, 412-222-1766,,

Society of Special Needs Adoptive Parents, 101 - 2780 East Broadway, Vancouver BC V5M 1Y8. 604-687-3114, 800-663-7627,,

Toronto Learning Challenges Assn. Help for families facing learning challenges due to Aspergers Syndrome, ADHD, autism, LDs, Tourette Syndrome.


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Contact: Robin Hilborn,
Box 1203, Southampton, Ont. N0H 2L0 Canada
©2011 Robin Hilborn. All rights reserved
URLs verified, Mar. 19, 2007
Updated, Feb. 2, 2011

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