If you have a teenager, you know the struggles that come with trying to get them out of bed and off to school in time every morning. You may have written this off as your teen having natural biological sleep patterns that result in them falling asleep later and sleeping later than adults. But there may be another reason: oftentimes kids with both diagnosed and undiagnosed learning disabilities want to skip school because of the stressors they face there.
Read on to learn about five of the most common learning disabilities found in teens:
Auditory Processing Disorder
Do you feel like your teen never listens to you? It might be something other tha teenage rebellion. Auditory processing disorder (APD) is a condition that affects the way the brain interprets sound, particularly speech. It’s not really a hearing problem as people with APD can hear sounds just fine in a quiet environment. But in places with lots of background noise, teens with APD will have trouble differentiating between someone speaking to them and other noises happening in the surrounding areas. This can manifest in many ways: teens with APD often have trouble paying attention in the midst of a noisy classroom, or they may not be able to focus on listening for very long. They may have trouble comprehending higher-level tasks or information even have problems remembering to do things that have been told to them because of the way they process information. Audiologists and speech-language pathologists can assist in the diagnosis and treatment of this condition.
Teenagers have a reputation for being impulsive, although recent interpretations have disagreed with that long-held idea. However, extremely impulsive behavior in teenagers may indicate attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when accompanied by other symptoms including inability to pay attention, disorganization, and constant restlessness. Kids and teens with ADHD can get easily sidetracked, make careless mistakes, lose things frequently, and will often interrupt people. ADHD can be diagnosed by a primary care physician or pediatrician, but it may be better to see a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist for a diagnosis, as ADHD tends to be best managed by a combination of medication and therapy depending on its severity.
Dyslexia, which is probably the best-known learning disability, affects the area of the brain that processes language. People with dyslexia have challenges reading because they have difficulty associating the sounds that words and speech make with written words. It’s the opposite of auditory processing disorder, in that dyslexics often have great listening comprehension but struggle with reading comprehension. Teens with dyslexia often read very slowly, have issues with spelling, have difficulty with decoding errors (for example, switching around the proper placement of letters), or mixing up small sight words. Their dyslexia will also give them trouble when learning a foreign language, which means teens in school with foreign language requirements will face extra challenges. Dyslexia can be managed with specialized educational techniques. It’s important to get it diagnosed and addressed, as it’s not something teenagers will outgrow as they get older.
Dysgraphia is similar to dyslexia, as both are language-based learning disabilities. While dyslexia affects reading, dysgraphia affects a person’s ability to write. Dysgraphia may be caused by the physical act of writing: in these cases, students may be unable to properly hold a pencil or their posture may be unusually tense and awkward which causes them to get tired and sore. It can also mean that students have difficulty expressing themselves in writing. This means that they may have trouble structuring sentences, may leave words or sentences unfinished, and may have difficulty organizing their thoughts. Students are often able to compensate for dysgraphia by using writing aids or a laptop: they also may do better when given oral exams or assignments rather than written tests and papers.
While dyscalculia isn’t as well-known as dyslexia, it has a lot in common with that condition. In dyscalculia, rather than having trouble with words and letters, people have a hard time understanding concepts related to numbers. This can include the use of symbols and functions in equations, and even concepts like bigger vs. smaller. There can also be a disconnect in associating numerals with the corresponding written number: for example, someone with dyscalculia might not be able to make the connection that “2” is the same thing as “two”. Teens with dyscalculia may need to rely on rote memorization and drilling more than their peers to master even simple concepts. Creative teaching using pictures to illustrate concepts has also proven successful.
Teenagers face a lot of challenges as they deal with their changing hormones and bodies and begin to take on additional responsibilities and stresses. Those issues are magnified an untold amount though when they’re also grappling with learning disabilities. If you think your teen may be dealing with one of these learning disabilities, reach out to their doctor and get advice on how to best get them the support they need to set them up for success.