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Learning Difficulties in Children: All You Need to Know

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Kathy Kenny Ylaya Ngo · Updated Sep 27, 2020

Learning Difficulties in Children: All You Need to Know

A learning difficulty is a condition that impacts a person’s ability to learn skills and gain knowledge at the rate that is expected. There are different factors of learning difficulties in children, which can affect their overall development. 

A learning difficulty can be due to a cognitive disorder or a mental handicap. This does not make someone less smart. It simply means that a person has a different way of learning things. This may be different to how children learn in traditional classroom settings and techniques. Learning difficulty is also known as a learning disability in the Philippines. 

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What are Learning Difficulties?

People with learning difficulties can acquire knowledge when they are provided specific training strategies and customized lessons. These help them overcome challenges and allow them to progress in an academic environment. It is most challenging for children who are just learning to read and write because of some factors of learning difficulties

A learning difficulty, in simple terms, is a brain wired in a different way. The truth is, children with a learning difficulty are just as smart as their peers, sometimes, even smarter. They, however, may have difficulty learning things when taught in a conventional way. But they can definitely learn how to read, write, spell, reason, recall, and organize information when it is taught in a personalized manner. 

What’s important to remember is that children with learning difficulties are more than capable of becoming successful in life given the right support and intervention.

To support their child’s development, parents can help identify their child’s strengths and weaknesses, and understand how their child learns. With this, they can partner with professionals who can then help their children adapt using different learning strategies.  

Different Types of Learning Disabilities 

Learning difficulties are conditions that can be classified under:

  • Dyslexia
  • Dyscalculia
  • Dysgraphia
  • Processing deficits.

There are different factors of learning difficulties as well as causes.


This is the most widely described learning difficulty. It is a learning disorder that challenges a person’s ability to read and comprehend text. Affected children have difficulty reading because they have a problem identifying speech sounds and relating them to letters and words, also known as decoding.  

For some people, the struggle is with recognition of how words break down according to sound. This challenge in distinguishing between similar word sounds is part of phonological processing. There can also be problems with fluency, spelling, and comprehension, among others. 

Children who have dyslexia may have

  • A hard time forming words correctly and end up reversing sounds
  • Have problems remembering names, colors, letters, and numbers
  • Have a hard time learning nursery rhymes or playing rhyming games 


This is a learning difficulty related to Math. Children who have dyscalculia struggle with concepts such as “bigger versus smaller,’ and have a hard time doing basic math problems. They may also have a hard time getting numbers in order and have limited capabilities when it comes to problem-solving. Time, measurement, and estimation can be very difficult for people with dyscalculia. 


This is a learning difficulty that affects fine motor skills, specifically writing. It interferes with spelling, word spacing, and the general ability to put thoughts on paper. This also affects a child’s ability to do written expression and organizing thoughts in a coherent manner. Basic sentence structure and grammatical awareness are also some of the things that children with this disability may have a hard time dealing with. 

Processing Deficits

The two most common types of processing deficits are:

  • Visual processing disorder
  • Auditory processing disorder

Children with processing deficits have a hard time understanding sensory data. They have challenges remembering important information needed for the comprehension of situations around them.  

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Potential Factors of Learning Difficulties 

Most learning difficulties start even before a child is born, and are caused by something affecting the development of the brain. However, this can also occur during birth or in early childhood. Learning disabilities can be caused by any one of a variety of factors, or by a combination. Sometimes the specific cause is not known. Possible causes include the following:

  • Becoming ill during pregnancy
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Complications during birth
  • Premature birth
  • Genetic inheritance also known as inherited learning disability. This means that someone in the immediate family of either side of the parents has a learning disability. 
  • Meningitis, a type of brain infection
  • Injuries that affect the brain 
  • Chromosome abnormalities like Down’s Syndrome or Turner Syndrome

There are other causes that may cause brain impairment and lead to learning disabilities. However, there are a few cases that none of these situations apply and the child still develops a learning disability.

How to Help Your Child

Though there is no known treatment for learning difficulties, there are means and ways to help children with learning disabilities to cope and succeed in life. 

  • Therapy. There are different therapies available for children who have learning difficulties. An occupational therapist can help with those who have problems with motor skills, speech therapists for those who have language or reading challenges, and educational therapists for those who need more help when it comes to reading, writing, and math. 
  • Strong support system. When you have a child with learning difficulties, it is important for parents and their family to ensure that their child’s self-esteem and self-confidence will not take a hit. Positive reinforcement is needed. 
  • Individualized Education Program. This is a program developed for specialized learning plans and strategies to help children with learning difficulties to learn at a pace that their brain can adapt to.  

Key Takeaways

Even if your child is diagnosed with a learning difficulty, there are ways to help them learn and become self-sufficient. Building the right support group and finding the right therapists and health professionals for your child are key to helping them become fully functional individuals. 

Learn more about Parenting here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

John Paul Abrina, MD

Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Kathy Kenny Ylaya Ngo · Updated Sep 27, 2020

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