Learning Disorders, Attention Disorders, Developmental Disorders, Autism
Learning Disorders affect approximately 8 to 10 percent of children, and approximately one third of those experiencing a Learning Disorder are also likely to experience an attention deficit disorder.
Learning disorders are identified when there are significant difficulties in processing and learning new information that affect one’s academic performance. Such difficulties may occur in the areas of math (dyscalculia), reading (dyslexia), writing (dysgraphia), executive function, information processing, and memory. Often, a discrepancy is seen between the student’s capability or potential to achieve and their actual achievement performance.
For some students, visual-perceptual skills and sensory functioning are impaired, whereas verbal and language skills are strong and intact. In such cases, the learning difficulties are described as a Nonverbal Learning Disorder.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is a pattern of cognitive functioning characterized by inattention, distractibility, and in many cases, hyperactivity. Individuals identified with ADHD typically fall into one of three categories: Inattentive type, Hyperactive/Impulsive type, or Combined type.
The Inattentive type is characterized by a failure to give close attention to details, to engage in active listening, or to see a task through to completion. Individuals often have trouble organizing tasks and activities, are forgetful, and are easily distracted. The Hyperactive/Impulsive type is characterized by fidgetiness, chattiness, restlessness, and difficulty in remaining seated. The Combined type is characterized by symptoms of inattention as well as hyperactivity and impulsivity.
In order to most accurately diagnose ADHD, it is important to conduct a comprehensive evaluation, which involves a thorough clinical interview, a broad range of neuropsychological tests, and a feedback session. We avoid using abbreviated test batteries or screening batteries that just focus on measuring attention or using only self-report forms. Attention difficulties can be a result of a variety of non-ADHD causes (for example, auditory processing problems, hearing or visual difficulties, depression, anxiety, motivation) and that is why it is important to conduct a comprehensive assessment.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a new medical classification that includes the continuum of disorders that have been typically referred to as Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and Autism Disorder. In the United States, approximately 20 children in 1000 are identified with ASD. We know that ASD occurs more frequently in boys than in girls.
Individuals with ASD experience difficulties with social communication that begin early on in life. Responding to and understanding the feelings and thoughts of others and engaging in social relationships become challenges. These challenges are significant enough that they impair general life functioning whether at school, work, or home.
Children with ASD may exhibit limited eye contact with others and be less interested in playing with other children or participating in reciprocal play. They tend to engage in repetitive behaviors, such as lining up toys, or repeating the same phrases of speech or the same simple motor movements. They may display very focused interests and rituals.
Adults with ASD experience difficulties in their social and personal relationships as they may miss social cues and not really understand what others expect of them. Comprehending the subtleties of what is socially acceptable is problematic for them and interferes with work performance as well as interpersonal relationships.