Upstate Neuropsychology

Learning Disability


What is Learning Disability?
Learning disability refers to a broad range of brain-related
abnormalities that persistently interfere with an individual's ability to
learn and use new information, usually despite normal intellectual
ability. Learning disability is commonly due to a developmental
condition, but may be due to an acquired condition when a specific
injury occurs in one or another brain area that impedes normal
learning. Identification of the precise nature of learning disability can
be quite challenging. Accurate diagnosis of the cause of learning
disability is necessary for proper treatment.

While normal variation exists among people in their abilities to learn,
the term "learning disability" refers to a specific brain condition that
precludes effective learning. Neuropsychological causes of learning
disability must be differentiated from emotional, environmental,
attitudinal, or other causes and from normal individual differences in
learning potential.

Learning Disability and the Brain
Structural damage to the brain can occur as a result of brain trauma,
insufficient oxygen, encephalitis, and so forth. Damage may result in
such problems as reading impairment, delayed maturation, clumsiness,
hyperactivity, and perceptual disorganization. Electrical, chemical,
and metabolic abnormalities in the brain can also occur that interfere
with communications among the neural structures. Unusual
development of lateralized brain function may interfere with the
brain's ability to integrate visual and auditory signals, thus confusing an
individual's ability to match the sights with the sounds of language.

Neuropsychological Testing of Learning Disability
The broad field of learning disabilities underscores the need to look for
specific brain abnormalities and the functional consequences of those
abnormalities. Psychoeducational and neuropsychological tests assist in
accurately diagnosing and providing intervention for learning how to
use functional strengths to minimize weaknesses. Learning strategies
can be devised to help strengthen deficits and to work around deficits
that cannot be improved.