Child psychologist outlines three learning disorders

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A learning disorder will affect your child or several of their classmates, according to a local psychologist. As children go back to school, an expert outlines the three classified learning disorders, how to recognize them and conquer the new school year.

Will MacGilvray is a typical 11-year-old. However, there was a time back in kindergarten and first grade that his teachers noticed a difference. "Just having my mind blank and nothing happening," Will MacGilvray said.

Will would zone out and had trouble with reading. "I was afraid of what they were going to tell me when they tested him. I was afraid of the unknown, what they were going to tell me, what disability was he going to have and can we conquer it," Becca MacGilvray said.

"Most of the time when a child is showing struggles early in school, they will develop into having a learning disorder and so the sooner we know that, the sooner we can provide intervention," says Dr. Maggie Wright, who is a licensed psychologist with The Wright Psychology and Learning Center.

According to Dr. Wright, there are three learning disorders. "Dyslexia is the most common of the three learning disorders. It accounts for 90 percent of individuals with the learning disorder," Dr. Wright said.

Warning signs include difficulty processing sounds, decoding words, spelling and reading. Children are usually diagnosed with the hereditary condition around nine or ten years old. For Will, it was earlier, which is preferred.

"We always want to take a comprehensive approach to evaluating kids to make sure we aren't missing the true cause of their struggles," Dr. Wright said.

Treatment includes a structured literacy multi-sensory intervention program, called Orton-Gillingham. It was developed by a neurologist and teacher in the 30s. "It has been replicated and researched throughout the decades to be the most effective gold standard intervention.," Dr. Wright said.

Math disorder, or dyscalculia, is another disorder and much less common. Warning signs include poor visual and spatial skills and not understanding how numbers work.

The third learning disorder is the inability to write coherently, or dysgraphia. Symptoms include trouble with motor skills like holding a pencil or forming letters, poor spelling and having a difficult time transferring thoughts onto paper so it makes sense.

"About 50 percent of kids with learning disorders also have ADHD. They come together often times. So, when a parent comes to us and they say, 'I'm concerned my child might have ADHD,' we will always rule out learning disorders as well," Dr. Wright said. "ADHD is biologically based. it is not caused by bad parenting. It is something that you're born with, it runs in families."

Dr. Wright says when it comes to ADHD, the cards are stacked against them because insurance companies don't pay for a full ADHD evaluation. "We are supposed to diagnose ADHD based on rating scales alone and parent teacher reports without doing the neuro-psychological assessment that is truly needed."

A controversial topic when it comes to diagnosing ADHD is some say school is getting more difficult and some children just aren't ready for the workload. Dr. Wright said she and her team are very cautious about assessing young children.

Will is heading into the sixth grade. "We came here and he is different, but he's different in his wonderful way," Becca MacGilvray said.

He's starting the new year as a straight A student. "I enjoy it a lot more. I have gained more confidence," Will MacGilvray said.

Dr. Wright said there is a solution to any one of these barriers to learning. Parents just need to ask. "If they've not been evaluated but you have a concern, don't wait. The worst thing we can do is wait because it is a myth that kids grow out of learning problems," Dr. Wright said.

If your child has a learning disorder, Dr. Wright says it's important to make sure you're communicating with their teacher and they have a copy of your child's special education plan.

For more information about The Wright Psychology and Learning Center, click here

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