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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 10/ 8/2010

Poll: Americans misunderstand learning disabilities

By Valerie Strauss

A majority of Americans think that neurologically based learning disabilities are the result of laziness and cling to other serious misperceptions about the disorders, a new national poll found.

Confusion about the definition and causes feeds into a stigma that has long surrounded learning disabilities, and leads to delays in diagnosis and early intervention that can change the course of a child’s life, the report said.

Some 2.6 million students -- one in eight in the United States -- have been diagnosed with learning disabilities and receive special education in their schools. Many more are undiagnosed.

Learning disabilities are a group of neurological disorders that affect the brain's ability to receive, process, store, and respond to information, and thus can make it difficult to learn certain academic and social skills. Intelligence is not relevant to the definition, and they are not caused by economic disadvantage, environmental factors, or cultural differences.

According to data from the National Center for Learning Disabilities, 25% of students with learning disabilities drop out of high school, and only 61% of those who complete high school receive a regular diploma.

The poll was conducted by GfK Roper and commissioned by the non-profit Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation of New Haven, Conn., which makes grants in the areas of art, environment and learning disabilities. The poll has a margin of error of three points, and the same was made to represent the U.S. adult population.

According to the poll:
*Seven out of 10 or more of the general public, parents and teachers surveyed incorrectly associate learning disabilities with mental retardation and autism. Half or more of school administrators do, too.

*Fifty-one percent think that what people call learning disabilities are the result of laziness.

*A majority of the public and parents believe that learning disabilities are often a product of the home environment children are raised in. Four in 10 teachers and three in 10 administrators agree.

*More than two-thirds of parents think specific signs of learning disabilities are something that a 2-4 year old child will grow out of, and, therefore, are more likely to delay seeking professional help.

*Almost 4 in 10 mistakenly associate learning disabilities with sensory impairments like blindness and deafness.

There are more results, some of it conflicting, on the foundation’s website, which you can find here.

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By Valerie Strauss  | October 8, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Learning Disabilities, Research  | Tags:  autism, learning disabilities, mental retardation, research, roper  
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Comments

"Intelligence is not relevant to the definition, and they [learning disabilities?] are not caused by economic disadvantage, environmental factors, or cultural differences."

Need some clarification. IQ can be affected by environmental toxins and those toxins can cause learning disabilities as well. Having the best prenatal environment (adequate oxygenation and nutrients) help the child to reach his potential. Also, breastfeeding has been shown to result in higher average IQ.

A page from the National Center on Learning Disabilities addresses this matter, a bit anyway (see portion on John Lloyd of University of Virginia):

http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/ld-explained/basic-facts/checking-up-on-learning-disabilities

On the same webpage, the author notes that learning disabilities are not something that can be outgrown. However, sometimes, rather the perception of such, can. Take for instance a child who is said to have a LD relating to reading because of certain characteristics. It may be that the child is actually having problems with the black print in contrast to the white paper, which can cause headaches and tummy aches (similiar to migraines). If a blue or green thin plastic sheet is placed over the reading material, the child will do much better. Furthermore, this can be outgrown, much like smaller kids having more carsick issues than adults. Additionally, children of smoking mothers who are slower readers may do much better at about the age of 9 or 10, if they don't fall through the educational cracks. Tracking cement.....

Posted by: shadwell1 | October 8, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

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