What causes learning disabilities?

Learning disabilities are a brain operational aberration. This means that the brain assimilates and processes certain kinds of new information and performs operations in unique, unusual ways that often make it difficult to achieve normal learning milestones.

In many cases, there may be a genetic predisposition to the development of learning disabilities. They can also be caused by changes in the brain from social or environmental deprivations, deafness, poor vision, birth trauma, or neurologic injury in utero. Learning disabilities are twice as common in children with chronic health conditions as in children without chronic health conditions. Children who receive special education services have greater rates of healthcare utilization than children who do not receive special education services. Some developmental problems can be corrected or improved by addressing intrinsic causes such as poor vision, deafness, and environmental factors.

What are the risk factors for learning disabilities?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing learning disabilities. Not all people with risk factors will get learning disabilities. Risk factors for learning disabilities include:

  • Alcohol or harmful drug exposure in utero
  • Birth trauma or distress
  • Exposure to neurologic or central nervous system injury in utero or after birth
  • Heredity
  • Lack of nurturing environment
  • Low birth weight
  • Medications such as cancer or leukemia treatments in children
  • Nutritional deficits
  • Premature birth
  • Sensory deficits, such as hearing loss or poor vision

Reducing your child’s risk of learning disabilities

While some learning disabilities cannot be prevented, you may be able to lower your child’s risk of learning disabilities by:

  • Avoiding all alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs before, during and after your pregnancy
  • Avoiding exposure to toxic substances during pregnancy and after your child’s birth
  • Carefully assessing risks versus benefits for your child’s medications with your health care practitioner
  • Eliminating stressful influences from your child’s home and social environment
  • Getting prompt help to correct any detected sensory deficits, especially hearing deficit or poor vision
  • Obtaining early childhood screenings for your child and discussing early childhood development milestones with your child’s health care provider
  • Protecting your child by limiting medications both during pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Providing good nutrition and a healthy environment for your child
  • Seeking early intervention if your child is diagnosed with a learning disability or a potential disability


What are learning disabilities?

Learning disabilities are disorders that affect a person’s ability to understand or respond to new information, or they are disorders that affect the ability to remember information that appears to have been taken in. Learning disabilities tend to cause problems with listening skills, language skills (including speaking, reading or writing), and mathematical operations. Learning disabilities ca... Read more about learning disabilitiesintroduction


What are the symptoms of learning disabilities?

Learning disabilities are usually ongoing for a person’s lifetime. However, depending on the severity and the type of disability, many people are able to compensate for minor disabilities in adulthood and are able to function very well in society. For others, the learning disabilities remain apparent. The most common symptoms tend to be related to cognition or language skills and tend to cause ... Read more about learning disabilitiessymptoms


How are learning disabilities treated?

Learning disabilities are not curable; however, many can be reduced or controlled with early screening and intervention. In addition, disabilities caused by correctable factors, such as poor hearing or vision, may go away entirely over time once the causative condition is corrected. Once diagnosed with a learning disability, your child’s most beneficial treatment will be special education servi... Read more about learning disabilitiestreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mental Health and Behavior