Causes of Learning
According to Westwood (1997), there is seldom a single
cause for learning disabilities and sometimes, it is impossible to identify and
predisposing factors. Though in most cases the causes of a child’s learning
disabilities remain unknown, the possible causes can be classified into four
broad categories namely; educational, environmental, psychological and
physiological. These categories are considered below.
These are factors within the educational system that may
cause learning disabilities. These include inadequate and inappropriate
teaching, use of poor teaching methods, lack of motivating or stimulating
activities, use of materials and curriculum that is too difficult for the
children to learn, frequent absence from school as a result of illness, lack of
encouragement from parent/guardians, and financial problems (Westwood, 1997).
Considering that Indian education system is highly examination-centred, schools
are keen on how much off the curriculum they can cover within a given time
instead of what children learn. In the process, children who are unable to cope
with the pressure of preparing for examinations develop learning problems with
some of them eventually dropping out due to frustrations. According to
Engellman (1977), many children are labeled LD not because of anything wrong
with their perception, synapses, or memory but because they have been seriously
mis-taught. Concurring with this view, Lovitt (1978) argues that learning
disabilities are made, and not born.
Evidence shows that environmentally disadvantaged children
are likely to exhibit learning difficulties. Environmental factors, which
affect learning include poor nutrition, lack of emotional and social security,
lack of security, witchcraft, accidents, love, warmth and acceptance at home,
lack of harmony at home such as single parenting, child abuse, alcoholic
parents or abusive parents, quarrels among siblings, inconsiderate step
mother/step father, overwork, and inadequate sleep (Westwood, 1997).
These refer to an interference with senses that are used to
transfer information leading to disorders in functions like receiving and
recalling information (Westwood, 1997). Children with LD exhibit a disorder in
one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or
in using spoken or written language. These may be manifested in disorders off
listening, thinking, talking, reading, writing, spelling or arithmetic. They
include conditions, which have been referred to as “perceptual handicaps, brain
injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia, among
These include genetics and trauma.
Studies show that learning disabilities are hereditary and
tend to run in families especially severe reading disability (Pringle, 1974).
When one identical twin has a reading disability, the other one is also likely
to have reading disability (but not the case with fraternal twins).
Injury or infection of the brain, which occurs before,
during or after birth, may affect the neuro-motor system leading to problems in
perception, thinking and emotional behavior. Trauma interferes with the normal
learning process. A significant number of children with learning problems do
have a history of traumas that may include prolonged labour, anoxia,
prematurity and injury from medical instruments such as forceps. Once the causes
of learning disabilities are known, teachers will be able to take necessary
intervention measures for the affected children to benefit from education.
Measures for Educational Purposes
If learning disabilities are suspected, the teacher may
refer students for special education assessment. Parents are notified of the
reasons for referral and presented with an assessment plan prepared by the
educational team. If consent is given for special education evaluation, the
team begins to collect information about the student (Lewis ,
There are a number of intervention strategies for children
with learning disabilities. However, it should be noted that there is no
specific teaching method or technique, which can be used as a cure, this
teachers should apply a wide range of instructional materials and techniques
(Koppitz, 1973). The following is an overview of the techniques that have been
discussed by Lerner (1976), Wallace (1975), and Wallace &
Kauffman (1973) among others.
2.7.1 Special Services
When assessment is complete, the teacher, parent/ guardian,
local education authority (and the student, if possible), can plan the
student’s individualized Educational Program (IEP). While the resource room is
the most typical placement for learning disabled students. Self-contained
special classes are provided for those with comprehensive learning needs.
Whereas some students with LD receive assistance in oral language development
from speech-language clinicians others receive counseling from the school
counselor, social worker or school psychologist.
2.7.2. Task Analysis
Task analysis involves breaking down a task into several
components, which in turn are divided into sub-components. In teaching a task,
which requires manual manipulation, a child observes how a model or master
performer performs the task and tries to imitate (McCarthy, 1987).
Developed by Lindsley (1964), this technique uses a chart
on which the teacher records the progress in the child’s behavior in relation
to the desired or target behhaviour. The graph is called The Class Behaviour Chart. The child’s daily progress on a given
task is recorded and also the rate of performance.
This is an effective measure in remediating learning
problems, eliminating undesirable behaviours and establishing desirable ones.
In addition to these techniques that are to be used I class, there are other
interventions, which can be administered outside the school, which are outlined
2.7.5 Administration of
Hyperactive children are constantly in motion, restless and
impulsive. Physicians tend to treat these characteristics by prescribing drugs
to calm them. Though some caution has to be taken in the treatment of hyperactivity,
drugs have nonetheless been found to produce substantial academic and behavior
Another controversial approach used in the treatment of
hyperactivity is the management of diet (Feingold, 1975). Some chemicals found
in ffood, including additives and food colouring, cause children to become
hyperactive. However, Cott (1977) cast some doubt that diet management can
reduce hyperactivity in the child.