April 19, 2013
One In 10 Children Have Learning Disabilities, UK Study Claims
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Specific learning disabilities (SLDs) such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and autism affect up to 10 percent of the population, and many children are affected by one of more of these disorders, researchers from University College London (UCL) and Goldsmiths, University of London claim in a new study.
That translates to two to three children in every classroom, the UK researchers wrote Thursday in the journal Science. The authors said that their work will help to clarify the underlying causes of SLDs, as well as help researchers discover ways to develop individualized instructional programs for affected youngsters and the educational professionals that work with them.
Learning disabilities arise as a result of atypical brain development with complex genetic and environmental causes, the researchers said. These catalysts lead to the development of such conditions as dyslexia, dyscalculia, specific language impairment, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
While each of these conditions alone tends to be problematic for teachers, the researchers discovered that the issue is compounded by the fact that these disorders occur together more often than one might expect. For example, they report that 33 to 45 percent of children with ADHD also have dyslexia, and 11 percent have dyscalculia.
“We now know that there are many disorders of neurological development 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,” lead author Brian Butterworth of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, said in a statement.
“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 specialized support tailored to their unique combination of disabilities,” he added.
During their research, Butterworth and Dr. Yulia Kovas of Goldsmiths compiled existing knowledge of learning disorders´ neural and genetic basis in order to help clarify what caused these conditions to develop. They hope that their work will help improve teaching quality for individual learners, as well as the quality of training for instructors, school psychologists, and clinicians.
“What the team hope is that by developing an understanding of how individual differences in brain development 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,” the researchers explained.
“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,” Butterworth added. “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.”