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EDUCATION REPORT - Learning Disabilities, Introduction - 2004-02-04

Broadcast: February 5, 2004

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.

Today we begin a series of programs about learning disabilities. These are disorders in the ways that people understand or use language. They can affect the ability to listen or think, or to speak, or to read and write. They can also affect the ability to do mathematics.

A person with a learning disability has unusual difficulty in developing these skills. Researchers believe that learning disabilities are caused by differences in the way that the brain works with information. They say children with learning disabilities are not unintelligent or do not want to work. Their brains just process information differently than other people.

Researchers say that as many as one out of every five people in the United States has some kind of learning disability. Almost three-million children in the United States receive some kind of help in school for a learning disability.

How can you tell if someone has a learning disability? Experts look for a difference between how well a child does in school and the level of intelligence or ability of the child. But there is no one sign of a disorder.

A few signs of a learning disability include not connecting letters with their sounds or not understanding what is read. A person with a learning disability may not be able to understand a funny story. They may not follow directions. They may not read numbers correctly or know how to start a task. Different people have different kinds of learning disabilities. One person may have trouble understanding mathematics. Another may have difficulty understanding what people are saying. Still another may not be able to express ideas in writing.

These different kinds of learning disabilities are known by different names. For example, a person who has difficulty reading may have dyslexia. Someone who cannot do mathematics may have a disorder called dyscalculia.

Experts say learning disabilities cannot be cured. But people who have them can be helped. Teachers and parents can help young people with learning disabilities to learn successfully.

In the next few weeks, we will discuss different kinds of learning disabilities. We will provide advice from specialists about ways to deal with them. And we will also examine some of the political issues involved in the area of special education.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.