Supporting Children’s Learning Difficulties
According to Australian studies, up to 18% of children have a significant social and emotional problem that requires professional help: 10% have learning difficulties; and 5-8% of children experience a form of attention deficit disorder, with or without hyperactivity (ADD/ADHD).
In each Australian classroom, it is likely that two to three children experience problems with learning. These children don’t meet the “normal” requirements of classroom learning.
There are two categories of learning difficulties:
- Global learning difficulties or the “slow learners” find all aspects of learning and understanding difficult regardless of how they are taught.
- Specific learning difficulties (SpLDs), which include dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ADD/ ADHD and auditory processing disorder, are those that usually have average or above average intelligence who have specific difficulties which affect the way information is learned and processed. SpLDs can also co- occur with difficulties on the autistic spectrum such as Asperger’s syndrome.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
ADHD affects up to 9.5% of school-aged children in Australia and New Zealand. Children with ADHD have an imbalance of dopamine and noradrenalin, which alters their behaviour. This imbalance affects the area of the brain involved in planning complex cognitive behaviours, personal expression, decision-making and moderating social behaviour.
- Factors that are associated with ADHD:
- gender: ADHD is more prevalent in boys
- prenatal and early postnatal health
- abnormal thyroid responsiveness
- learning disabilities, communication disorders and tic disorders e.g. Tourette’s syndrome
- nutritional factors – allergies, food intolerances, food additives
- environmental exposures – toxins/heavy metals
psychosocial stressors, such as marital discord or parental psychopathology; in isolation probably not a major cause of ADHD, but may contribute in combination with other risks.
Many children with ADHD also have co-morbid conditions:2
• 25% have specific learning difficulties
• up to 30% suffer from depression
• 20% experience anxiety
• 15% have conduct disorder.