What causes learning disabilities?

See Also:

Why Do Some People Have Trouble Learning?

Various theories abound about the very nature of learning and reading disabilities. Pretty well all reading/learning specialists will agree there are numerous patterns of learning disability, and therefore likely many ’causes’ or types. Of all the theories, there are only a few that seem to point in the right direction as they complement one another very well and explain the majority of cases:

    • Dyslexia is a problem with phonology and graphology (matching the symbols with the sounds). This is well-documented and studied and points to underlying trouble integrating these two in receptive and productive language. While this does not describe the underlying problem is does deal with the results.
    • Reading and learning difficulties (including dyscalculia) are the result of ‘Retained Primitive Reflexes’. In short, the child struggles to deal with advanced demands of the classroom using automatic (reflexive) responses that worked well in infancy, but have not been superseded by more advanced functions.
    • Reading and learning difficulties are the result of sensory and motor integrative difficulties. That is, the child is unable to maximally utilize his senses and motor skills in a coordinated willful way when asked to do so. This suggests a key role for the thalamus in learning and reading trouble as this is the central area of the brain that manages sensory and motor coordination and attention (a greatly simplified view of what the thalamus does and of what the neurology of the problem is).

There are other possible sources of trouble with learning and reading, but the three theories above describe best the most likely contributing factors to the most common reading and learning issues. Of course, this brief post cannot fully cover all of the detailed aspects of the causes of RD/LD, but it’s a start. Readers can find more elsewhere in this site. For another perspective, and a little more science, you can also have a look at Dr. Leonard Press’s excellent article: http://visionhelp.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/more-on-dyslexia-and-vision/