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    Learning Disabilities - or Not!

    The term “learning disability” covers a large number of causes and symptoms. In general, a learning disability is any disorder that affects a person's ability to either interpret what they see and hear or to link information from different parts of the brain. The disability usually affects only certain specific and often limited areas of a child's development and does not impair their potential of living a happy, fulfilling life.

    Learning disabilities can be difficult to diagnose, let alone pinpoint the cause. There are no known cures, but there are many different treatments and outcomes. In any case, the "learning disability" label should not be allowed to mask the unique abilities and talents that a child does have. As with all children, quality education in school or at home is important to provide the child with plenty of opportunities to develop their skills.

    Many young people growing up with learning disabilities have the determination to reach their goals in spite of any obstacle. They are able to hold diverse and meaningful jobs, maintain their own households, and make significant contributions to their communities. Consider the following testimonial:

    I was told when my daughter was six years old that she would never read, she would never graduate from high school or college. My first reaction was - stand back and watch!...She has graduated from high school and completed two years of community college, majoring in business. She is the area manager…for a company….in charge of 75 salespeople. She teaches them how to sell! When it came to the education of my child, I never accepted the words, "She can't." ~Nancy Hansel

    Common Learning Disorders

    Attention Deficit Disorder (with or without hyperactivity) - these disorders continue to be further defined and differentiated, but in general can be thought of as a difficulty in the planning and executing center of the brain, which may cause inattentiveness (inability to focus on a task), impulsiveness (not thinking before acting), and disorganization (unable to keep track of time, dates, and materials, inability to set and reach a goal, and/or inability to recall known facts).

    Autism - a communication disorder in which symptoms may be mild or severe, ranging from a difficulty functioning in social situations and reading non-verbal clues, to a complete inability to communicate and form any social bonds at all.

    Dyscalculia - a broad term that refers to difficulty with mathematics, usually affecting either math operations (such as quick recall of facts) or applications (as in time and money, or word problems).

    Dysgraphia - a term that means difficulty with written language, it often accompanies dyslexia, but may exist on its own, and may be further broken down into difficulty with mechanics (i.e. spelling, punctuation), visual motor difficulties, and/or difficulties of composition and expression.

    Dyslexia - a broad term meaning difficulty learning to read.

    Famous Learning Disabled People

    The following famous people are all known to have had learning disabilities: Henry Ford, Nelson Rockefeller, William Butler Yeats, Woodrow Wilson, Walt Disney, John Horner, Charles Schwab, Bruce Jenner, Nolan Ryan, Magic Johnson, Jay Leno, Loretta Young, Harry Belafonte, Jackie Stewart, George Burns, Cher, Danny Glover, Henry Winkler, Tom Cruise, Tommy Hilfiger.

    The following famous people who had learning disabilities were either wholly self-educated or taken out of school and taught at home: Leonardo da Vinci, Hans Christian Andersen, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Agatha Christie, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, George Patton, William Lear, Whoopi Goldberg.

    Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan

    Anne Sullivan was a devoted teacher who, despite her own handicap (partial blindness), demonstrated a tireless commitment to her student, Helen Keller, who had severe learning disabilities (blindness and deafness). Anne developed a method of touch teaching which used direct experience rather than attempting to explain a concept.


    "I was, on the whole, considerably discouraged by my school days. It was not pleasant to feel oneself so completely outclassed and left behind at the beginning of the race." ~Winston Churchill

    "Young George . . . although he was bright and intelligent and bursting with energy, he was unable to read and write. Patton's wife corrected his spelling, his punctuation, and his grammar." ~biographer Martin Blumenson on General George Patton

    "As a child, I was called stupid and lazy. On the SAT I got 159 out of 800 in math. My parents had no idea that I had a learning disability." ~Henry Winkler

    "I performed poorly at school, when I attended, that is, and was perceived as stupid because of my dyslexia. I still have trouble reading. I have to concentrate very hard at going left to right, left to right, otherwise my eye just wanders to the bottom of the page." ~Tommy Hilfiger, clothes designer

    "I never read in school. I got really bad grades--D's and F's and C's in some classes, and A's and B's in other classes…Almost everything I learned, I had to learn by listening. My report cards always said that I was not living up to my potential." ~Cher

    "When I had dyslexia, they didn't diagnose it as that. It was frustrating and embarrassing. I could tell you a lot of horror stories about what you feel like on the inside." ~Nolan Ryan

    "My teachers say I'm addled . . . my father thought I was stupid, and I almost decided I must be a dunce." ~Thomas Edison

    "He told me that his teachers reported that . . . he was mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in his foolish dreams." ~Hans Albert Einstein, on his father, Albert Einstein

    "I, myself, was always recognized . . . as the "slow one" in the family. It was quite true, and I knew it and accepted it. Writing and spelling were always terribly difficult for me. My letters were without originality. I was…an extraordinarily bad speller and have remained so until this day." ~Agatha Christie, mystery writer

    "I was one of the 'puzzle children' myself -- a dyslexic . . . And I still have a hard time reading today. Accept the fact that you have a problem. Refuse to feel sorry for yourself. You have a challenge; never quit!" ~Nelson Rockefeller, businessman, philanthropist

    "Since I was the stupidest kid in my class, it never occurred to me to try and be perfect, so I've always been happy as a writer just to entertain myself. That's an easier place to start." ~Stephen J. Cannell, screenwriter, producer, director

    "I had to train myself to focus my attention. I became very visual and learned how to create mental images in order to comprehend what I read." ~Tom Cruise

    "I barely made it through school. I read real slow. But I like to find things that nobody else has found, like a dinosaur egg that has an embryo inside. Well, there are 36 of them in the world, and I found 35." ~John Horner, paleontologist

    "I couldn't read. I just scraped by. My solution back then was to read classic comic books because I could figure them out from the context of the pictures. Now I listen to books on tape." ~Charles Schwab, stock broker

    "My problem was reading very slowly. My parents said 'Take as long as you need. As long as you're going to read, just keep at it.' We didn't know about learning disabilities back then." ~Roger Wilkins, head of the Pulitzer Prize Board

    "Am I the only one who notices a total lack of disabled teachers and an unending supply of disabled students?" ~Sue Maakestad, author of "Home Sweet Home-School"

    "What's diagnosed as a learning difficulty is often just a different learning style." ~Blaise Subbiondo, founder and CEO of eTAP (Electronic Teaching Assistance Program)

    "Each child comes into the world with unique potential… The biggest challenge for parents and teachers is to remove the roadblocks that keep those gifts from being recognized, celebrated, and nurtured." ~Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., psychologist/educator


    The Gift of Dyslexia: Why Some of the Smartest People Can't Read and How They Can Learn, by Ronald Davis. (As a child, the author of this book had an unusual talent for creativity and imagination, yet his teachers labeled him "retarded." As an adult, he developed a procedure that anyone can use to overcome the difficulties of dyslexia. In this book, he tells how dyslexia can actually be a gift, not a disability. Included are instructions on how to help the multi-dimensional thinker "translate" from the two-dimensional symbols/ linear art of reading to multidimensional thinking.)

    Homeschooling the Child with ADD (or Other Special Needs), by Lenore C. Hayes. (More and more parents are realizing that homeschooling is a great option for children with ADD, ADHD, and other special needs. Homeschooling parents can tailor the learning experience to precisely fit their child's requirements, a critical necessity in the development of special-needs children.)

    How to Identify Your Child's Learning Problems and What to Do About Them: A Practical Guide for Parents, by Duane A. Gagnon. (Published by Pioneer Press, P.O. Box 328, Young, AZ 85554)

    In Their Own Way, by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D.

    Awakening Your Child's Natural Genius, by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D.

    Creative Home Schooling for Gifted Children: A Resource Guide, by Lisa Rivero. (Lisa addresses areas not usually covered in homeschooling books such as asynchronous development, perfectionism, and learning for self-actualization.)

    The Way They Learn, by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias (How to discover and teach to your child’s strengths. Includes a chapter on the difference between learning style and learning disability.)


    LD Online (The leading web site on learning disabilities, disorders and differences for parents, teachers, and other professionals. Authoritative guidance on attention deficit disorder, ADD / ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dysnomia, reading difficulties, speech and related disorders.)

    Dyslexia My Life (Informative website by Girard Sagmiller, author of the autobiographical book, Dyslexia My Life, giving inside knowledge on the various ways of coping with dyslexia and learning disabilities.)

    The Bible's Way to Victory over ADHD and Other Childhood Challenges (A free online book, providing sound answers on preventing and overcoming behavioral, emotional and learning problems, including ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), Conduct Disorder and Tourette's Syndrome.) (The website of Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., a psychologist and educator. Read his articles on multiple intelligences, the natural genius of children, and the myth of ADD.)

    Family Education (Get helpful information, expert advice, and tips from other parents on topics ranging from the signs of a learning disability to the best education options for a gifted learner.)

    Learning Abled Kids (Seeks to provide information and tools to help parents circumvent their child's learning disabilities.)

    Born to Explore: The Other Side of ADD (A Clearinghouse for Positive and Alternative Information.)

    Carol's Speech and Language Disorders Professional Resources (A comprehensive website of sites that will give you information about specific speech and language disorders. Also, articles, lesson plans, and materials.

    See Also: Special Kids... Special Needs

    See Also: Review: An Inspired Idea

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