Some definitions tell us nothing at all. Others use so many words we can't tell what causes or constitutes a learning disability. Check out a few definitions that are popular today:
“A condition giving rise to difficulties in acquiring knowledge and skills to the level expected of those of the same age, especially when not associated with a physical handicap.” — Google Search
“A learning disability is a neurological disorder. In simple terms, a learning disability results from a difference in the way a person’s brain is “wired.” — LD Online
One rule of thumb that's widely accepted when defining a Learning Disability is, "A Two-year Discrepancy Between Age and Achievement."
What Areas Does a Learning Disability Effect?
While Learning Disabilities can interfere with basic skills like reading, writing, and math, they can also interfere with higher-level skills like organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long and short term memory, and attention.
On this topic, The Learning Disability Association of America states the following,
“It is important to realize that learning disabilities can affect an individual’s life beyond academics and can impact relationships with family, friends, and in the workplace.”
Learning Disabilities are not only known to affect relationships, but they can also mask students who are gifted. We have worked with many students whose true achievement levels and mental ages are much higher than their biological age and academic ability.
We have found that while a "two-year discrepancy between age and achievement" may be common practice in schools, it doesn't address the help a student might need who is performing at an average level but is actually a gifted, exceptional student. These are the students who may make decent grades but are acutely aware of their struggles and underperformance in some areas. In fact, gifted students are often among our high school dropouts — it's estimated that 50% of dropouts are gifted. Go figure!
According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), the definition of a specific learning disability is as follows:
“A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to:
This includes conditions such as:
*Disabilities are not limited to those shown above. These are only a few examples.
If psychological processes are so basic, why is there not more remedial emphasis placed on them?
The IDEA definition refers to the psychological processes measured on IQ subtests. These include areas such as:
These areas represent umbrellas over a multitude of subskills, which are selectively tested using specialized methods.
Areas of psychological processing are also collectively known as cognitive processing skills. The most common are auditory processing and visual processing.
Research has found that these skills, once thought to be cemented in place by a certain age, are responsive to therapeutic procedures for growth and development. Brain plasticity is the new buzzword for this relatively new phenomenon.
Therefore, we can help your child improve underperforming processing skills through cognitive processing skill therapy. This method forms the basis for the PACE program we offer at Learning Dynamics, LLC, our Learning Disability Center in Knoxville. PACE stands for “Processing & Cognitive Enhancement.”
Research shows that enhancing cognitive processing skills can be the key to increasing learning skills!
To diagnose a Learning Disability, we test to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses in cognitive processing skills and academics. Among these critical skills are, as mentioned previously:
At our Knoxville Learning Center, we use the Gibson Cognitive Skills test, which is a standardized, normed test. We prefer to use the paper and pencil version because of the valuable information we can gain by observing. These observations would otherwise be missed by a computer.
1. Complete a Skills Test to identify your child's areas of strengths and weaknesses in cognitive processing skills and academics.
2. Enroll your Child in PACE our Processing and Cognitive Enhancement program. This program is designed to help your child gain stronger abilities in the underdeveloped areas we identify during testing. PACE also helps areas of strength become even stronger
3. Enroll your child in one of our academic training programs to build necessary neurological connections for reading or math. These programs help your child build a better understanding of language and number systems and are known for having accelerated results compared with traditional tutoring.
Learning Dynamics, LLC exists to help children and adults who struggle with a learning disability find the help they need. Here's a little more information about how we do that:
We test for cognitive (neurologically based) processing skill areas of strength and weakness. After you or your child completes a test, we will consult with you about the test results and correlate them with any other previous testing you or your child has completed. Our results are shown in an easy to understand bar graph.
If we find areas of weakness in any of the critical cognitive abilities, we may recommend one or more of our interventions.
PACE COGNITIVE SKILLS TRAINING
We offer research-based, custom-designed programs with proven results. Our primary tool for intervention is the PACE program, which stands for Processing and Cognitive Enhancement. This program effectively and efficiently targets all areas of cognition with mental workouts and a personal learning coach.
Have you heard of runners who train for marathons by using ankle weights and practicing at high elevations to develop strong lungs and muscles? The PACE program operates using the same idea.
PACE loads the brain to push itself at multi-tasking activities designed to use specific parts of the brain simultaneously to grow and develop the neurological connections which we have found to be lacking. As a result, students learn to take in higher amounts of input; process, use or analyze that input; and, retain for later retrieval.
The PACE program requires a minimum of 60, one hour sessions to strengthen and develop the base neurological systems for learning. After completing PACE, a student may begin diagnostic re-teaching in academics to identify and fill in learning gaps, which are the result of weak cognitive skills.
ADDITIONAL PROGRAMS FOR TARGETED RESULTS
We also offer other programs, like Master the Code, to hone in on a specific skill set you or your child is struggling with. Master the Code is one of the most popular programs that we offer. It's our reading and spelling program that works as a companion program to PACE.
Master the Code is based on leading research in reading education and industry best practices. It is designed to continue to strengthen and challenge the brain using similar exercises as those we use in PACE. Within one year, we have seen students improve their reading ability by years! We have found PACE and Master the Code to also help with dysgraphia (writing) and speech.