Expert discusses learning disorder and slow learning

By Ghadeer Ghloum

KUWAIT: Learning difficulties and slow learning are concepts that refer to challenges in acquiring knowledge or skills. However, both stem from different factors and require different approaches to support the individual. To clarify the disparities between these two terms and to shed light on their unique aspects, Kuwait Times interviewed Occupational Therapist and PhD in Mental Health Dr Maram Al-Dihani.

Dr Maram Al-Dihani

Kuwait Times: What are the different definitions of learning difficulties and slow learning?

Dr Maram Al-Dihani: The terms may seem very similar, but the difference is significant in terms of the difficulties faced by the child. Learning disorders or difficulties occur when the brain processes information differently than usual, resulting in difficulties in specific skills such as dyslexia or dyscalculia, which hinder the child’s ability to complete certain tasks. On the other hand, the term slow learning refers to the slower and more difficult acquisition of skills due to lower cognitive abilities.

Kuwait Times: What are the main differences in symptoms observed in people with learning difficulties and those with slow learning?

Dr Dihani: One of the clearest differences is the IQ test score compared to their peers. When a child has learning difficulties, it means they have good cognitive abilities and can learn all aspects of life naturally and easily without intervention, but they face a specific problem in a certain skill that hinders their learning, such as dyslexia or dyscalculia. These children struggle in school with these mentioned difficulties and resort to methods and strategies to avoid failure in required tasks.

For instance, some children memorize the shape of a word and avoid spelling it because they cannot do so. On the other hand, when a child is a slow learner, it means their academic performance is below average, indicating the difficulties they face in most developmental stages. They require interventions to develop cognitive skills and some motor skills that require motor planning. Problems that children with slow learning may face include difficulties in speech, learning and developmental skills, creating a gap between their abilities and actual age-appropriate skills.

Kuwait Times: What are the academic challenges faced by people with learning difficulties compared to those with slow learning?

Dr Dihani: One of the challenges faced by children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia and others is their awareness of the problem and knowing that there is something preventing them from reading clearly and efficiently, which may lead to other problems such as avoidance of certain tasks or anxiety when faced with a challenge that relies on reading. On the other hand, children with slow learning often have lower cognitive abilities and do not have a comprehensive understanding of the problem. They struggle to learn life and academic skills with the same difficulty.

Kuwait Times: How does learning manifest for people with learning difficulties, and how does it differ from the learning experience for people with slow learning?

Dr Dihani: Firstly, it differs in the type of academic material and teaching methods. Children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia do not have a problem with the curriculum but need some training and technological changes to facilitate the reading process, whereas children with slow learning need a modified and simplified curriculum.

Kuwait Times: How can early intervention be helpful?

Dr Dihani: Early intervention is crucial because when the problem is ignored and not addressed in its early stages, it can lead to branching out into other problems such as decreased self-confidence, anxiety and possible depression for the child. For example, when a child struggles to understand simple mathematical concepts without resorting to appropriate teaching and learning methods, they may find it difficult to solve complex mathematical problems in middle school.

Kuwait Times: Is it possible for people with learning difficulties or slow learning to improve their abilities over time, and what are the possible measures to achieve this?

Dr Dihani: People never stop evolving and acquiring new experiences, which means that the learning process is continuous and ongoing, and challenges vary in each age stage. When a child improves in a specific stage, it does not mean that the intervention stops, but proactive plans and guidelines should be established to address the difficulties the child may face and provide sufficient training before the problem accumulates.

Yes, the child can improve over time through learning the correct skills and strategies to overcome difficulties, in addition to proper and continuous training, which contributes to raising the child’s self-confidence, because they will stop blaming themselves after being clearly defined with the problem and being trained on the best way to face challenges.

The treatment plans and mechanisms depend on the current situation of the child, the level of difficulties they face and the type of challenges in their surrounding environment. It should be understood that each child is unique and responds in a specific manner to treatment. Hence, choosing the correct treatment plan at the right time is important for the child’s development.

The post Expert discusses learning disorder and slow learning appeared first on Kuwait Times.

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