The term “learning disability” may have acquired an undesirable social stigma and over the years, children have been labeled inattentive, “slow” or naughty in class, yet the disability is very real and must be faced despite the numerous challenges. Leading medical institution Makati Medical Center, delves into the diagnosis, management and advocacy for children with learning disabilities.
According to Alexis Reyes, MD, MakatiMed’s Chief of Developmental Pediatrics, the term “learning disability” clinically means any neurodevelopment dysfunction that overtly disrupts learning and results in a significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information, or to learn new skills.
A learning disability often means that a child’s potential for cognitive achievement is not at par with his or her academic performance. Currently, no agreement has been reached on the definition of the term itself, and even other labels used for specific learning disabilities like dyslexia or dyscalculia, which are applied to children to enable them to get school services or accommodations.
Learning disabilities are caused by unknown factors that affect the brain’s ability to receive and process information. Individuals who have this condition have trouble following directions, retrieving information, organizing data, and may have problems with writing or reading. There is no "cure" for learning disabilities, but with the right support and intervention, children with learning disabilities can be taught ways to get around these, be academic achievers and successful later in life.
Assessment and management demands a meticulous and comprehensive multidisciplinary approach. It is unlikely that any single professional can assess adequately the diverse and broad effects of academic underachievement. An optimal evaluation team should consist of a pediatrician, neurologist neuropsychologist, psychiatrist and educational specialist.
While the cause of the child's disability may be irreversible, Dr. Reyes said that “demystification of the condition and its key causes can aid the children and families, teachers and physicians in understanding the sources of difficulties. Numerous techniques can enable a child to circumvent neurodevelopmental dysfunctions like bypass strategies and accommodations .Individual and family counseling may be indicated for those with learning disabilities complicated by family dysfunction or identifiable psychiatric disorders. All children can benefit from the support and guidance of a service coordinator or “a medical home”. Pediatricians can play a role by providing early detection, intervention and long term follow-up care for those with differences in learning. They can prevent further loss of skills, carefully plan interventions that can increase level of functioning and performance, as well as counsel parents on how to care for and provide support to their children.”
MakatiMed takes a multidimensional, biopsychosociospiritual approach to managing developmental disorders such as learning disabilities. A team of experienced, highly competent staff from various fields such as developmental and behavioral pediatrics, child neurology, child psychology and neuropsychology, child psychiatry and rehabilitation medicine work closely with the patient’s family to develop a comprehensive, individualized program for the child. This also includes emotional support and counseling for parents and siblings, as the entire family should be an integral part of the program.
The goal is to help children benefit from the support of a loving circle of family and friends, to encourage the development of their strengths while preserving their self esteem and motivation, maximize participation in their communities, and to let them lead the best quality of life.
For more information, visit the Makati Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics at the 8th Floor, Tower 1, No. 2 Amorsolo St., Makati City on weekdays from 8 am to 4 pm and Saturdays from 8 am to 12 noon. You may also call the MakatiMed 24/7 On-Call Hotline at 8888-999 local 2830 or visit www.makatimed.net.ph.