Learning disabilities affect up to 10 percent of children, study finds

April 18, 2013

Up to 10 per cent of the population are affected by specific learning disabilities (SLDs), such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and autism, translating to 2 or 3 pupils in every classroom according to a new study.

The study – by academics at UCL and Goldsmiths - also indicates that children are frequently affected by more than one .

The research, published today in Science, helps to clarify the underlying causes of learning disabilities and the best way to tailor individual teaching and learning for affected individuals and education professionals.

Specific learning disabilities arise from atypical brain development with complicated genetic and environmental causes, causing such conditions as dyslexia, dyscalculia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and specific language impairment.

While these conditions in isolation already provide a challenge for educators, an additional problem is that specific learning disabilities also co-occur for more often that would be expected. As, for example, in children with attention-deficit/ disorder, 33 to 45 per cent also suffer from dyslexia and 11 per cent from .

Lead author Professor Brian Butterworth (UCL Institute of ) said: "We now know that there are many disorders of that can give rise to learning disabilities, even in children of normal or even high intelligence, and that crucially these disabilities can also co-occur far more often that you'd expect based on their prevalence.

"We are also finally beginning to find effective ways to help learners with one or more SLDs, and although the majority of learners can usually adapt to the one-size-fits-all approach of whole class teaching, those with SLDs will need specialised support tailored to their unique combination of disabilities."

As part of the study, Professor Butterworth and Dr Yulia Kovas (Goldsmiths) have summarised what is currently known about SLD's neural and genetic basis to help clarify what is causing these disabilities to develop, helping to improve teaching for individual learners, and also training for school psychologists, clinicians and teachers.

What the team hope is that by developing an understanding of how individual differences in interact with formal education, and also adapting learning pathways to individual needs, those with specific learning disabilities will produce more tailored education for such learners.

Professor Butterworth said: "Each child has a unique cognitive and genetic profile, and the educational system should be able to monitor and adapt to the learner's current repertoire of skills and knowledge.

"A promising approach involves the development of technology-enhanced learning applications – such as games - that are capable of adapting to individual needs for each of the basic disciplines."

Explore further: Adults with learning disabilities at greater risk of sight problems

More information: "The Challenge of Education and Learning in the Developing World," by M. Kremer, Science, 2013.
"Understanding Neurocognitive Developmental Disorders Can Improve Education for All," by B. Butterworth, Science, 2013.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

The birth of politics in children—the case of dominance

September 26, 2016

As they grow up, do children become young Robin Hoods? Depending on their age, they do not allocate resources in the same way between dominant and subordinate individuals. Thus a tendency towards egalitarianism develops and ...

Oxytocin enhances spirituality, new study says

September 21, 2016

Oxytocin has been dubbed the "love hormone" for its role promoting social bonding, altruism and more. Now new research from Duke University suggests the hormone may also support spirituality.

Study reveals a biological link between stress and obesity

September 21, 2016

Metabolic and anxiety-related disorders both pose a significant healthcare burden, and are in the spotlight of contemporary research and therapeutic efforts. Although intuitively we assume that these two phenomena overlap, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.