Learning Disability Overview covering ADD, ADHD, attention deficit, aphasia, autism, dyslexia, hyperactive, hyperactivity, prescription drugs, ritalin, preservative free diets and food allergy.

  Learning Disability  

Learning Disability Overview covering ADD, ADHD, attention deficit, aphasia, autism, dyslexia, hyperactive, hyperactivity, prescription drugs, ritalin, preservative free diets and food allergy.

Learning Problems, Causes and Treatments

A learning disability is any physical or mental condition that interferes with learning. Learning disabilities can affect spoken or written language, coordination, self-control and attention. They can create problems with reading, writing, math and social interaction. Learning disabilities become apparent when comparing a child's development with other children of the same age. Since children develop at different rates, it is often difficult to diagnose mild learning problems before a child enters school. If you suspect a learning disorder, it is best to confront it early before the consequences multiply as the child ages. Common signs are delayed communication, regression of communication skills, difficulty interacting with peers, poor ability to follow directions, restless and distracted, unaware of surroundings and prone to accidents.

What causes learning disabilities? Some disabilities are given names to help categorize children: aphasia, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia. But these names are just labels that describe a range of symptoms. These names do not specify a root cause. Most researchers believe that these named disorders may be caused by a wide variety of genetic factors, infections, chemical imbalances, environmental stresses and so on. As such, any single medical or educational intervention will rate poorly in broad studies of learning disorders. However, specific interventions can have dramatic results for specific children. It is up to parents and teachers to find out what works for a particular individual. Note there are many similarities between disorders and normal behavior, so it is often difficult to classify a child.


Characteristics of Disorders Affecting Learning



Aphasia is a communication disorder that does not affect overall intelligence. Aphasia interferes with the ability to speak or understand speech and often causes difficulty with reading or writing. It is most commonly associated with stroke in adults, although many children are affected.

1 in 250


This is a broad category of disorders that can arrest and reverse normal development. It is characterized by lack of social responsiveness including touch and eye contact. Language skills may be poor and there is a tendency for repetitive motion like spinning and flapping. Preoccupation with certain objects is common.

1 in 105

ADD and

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) describes an impaired ability to focus and concentrate. It reduces attention span, makes directions difficult to follow and fosters impulsive, disruptive behavior that is unresponsive to discipline. ADHD adds hyperactivity to the mix which includes inappropriate wiggling and the inability to sit still.

1 in 8


Dyslexia is a language disability that is characterized by difficulties with word recognition, spelling and decoding. This translates into trouble understanding, reading or writing words, sentences or paragraphs. Although letter and word reversals are common symptoms, they are not diagnostic.

1 in 20

Aphasia interferes with speech and language processing and is a common side effect of a stroke which has damaged part of the brain. When aphasia occurs in children, it is assumed that a part of the brain involved with language has failed to develop. Most interventions are educational and many schools have programs and classes for children with aphasia. If your child has significant difficulty with spoken language, consult a speech therapist or your school. Dyslexia is another language disorder, but unlike aphasia, it has more to do with reading than speech. It is generally believed that dyslexics use novel areas of the brain to process written language. When taught reading and writing in a conventional manner, most dyslexics do poorly. However, alternative approaches can be effective and you should ask for help at your child's school. Dyslexia is not necessarily such a bad thing; it is believed that Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein were dyslexics.

Graph for Learning Disability Overview covering ADD, ADHD, attention deficit, aphasia, autism, dyslexia, hyperactive, hyperactivity, prescription drugs, ritalin, preservative free diets and food allergy.Autism is more formally known as autistic spectrum disorder because of the wide range of symptoms included in this category. As recently as 50 years ago, autism occurred in only 1 out of 10,000 children and was thought to be caused by poor mothering. Today, it is diagnosed in 1 out of 105 children and the range of possible causes includes everything but poor mothering. In short, most anything that interferes with brain and nerve development may be a factor in the current explosion of autism. Some researchers are investigating normal childhood diseases that may spread to nerve tissue. Others are suspicious of MMR (measles mumps rubella) vaccinations as they interact with immature or burdened immune systems. And many parents question the great number of vaccinations (some with mercury preservatives) given infants in modern America. Even diet is under suspicion with possible connections to food additives, environmental toxins, increased sugar consumption, yeast overgrowth and leaky guts. The only consensus is that there are a wide range of factors at play. What causes autism is one question. What helps autism is a different question addressed by the table below.


Description of
Autism Treatment




to Worse


Antibiotic (General) 30 % 59 % 11 % 1/2 to 1
Antifungal (Nystatin) 5 48 47 10 to 1
Prozac 31 33 36 1 to 1
Ritalin 44 26 29 1 to 1


Vitamins & Minerals 5 50 45 9 to 1
Digestive Enzymes 4 44 52 14 to 1
Chelation Detox 3 28 70 27 to 1


Feingold (ADHD) 2 47 51 23 to 1
Dairy Free 2 51 48 30 to 1
Wheat Free 2 53 46 26 to 1
Sugar & Choc Free 2 51 47 24 to 1

The parents of autistic children are on the front line of the battle against autistic spectrum disorder. Parents must cope with this condition everyday and they are an invaluable resource for opinions on what helps and what doesn't. The Autism Research Institute in San Diego ( now a part of Autism Speaks ) has been collecting such data since 1967 and the table above is a summary of the opinions of 21,500 parents. The table rates biomedical interventions designed to improve autistic behavior. This is not a scientifically controlled study, so most medical professionals raise a questioning eyebrow. But it does represent the averaged opinions of thousands of parents and cannot be ignored.

Note that most prescription medications do not help autistic symptoms with the exception of antifungals. Presumably, antifungal drugs improve the balance of digestive flora in the intestines and have a positive dietary effect. And look at the remarkably beneficial results of various diets designed to restrict chemicals or foods that may be difficult to digest for a subset of our population. The numbers suggest that an alternative diet may be among the most beneficial treatments for autism. Diets do not cure autism but they can make the symptoms more manageable. Vitamins, minerals and digestive enzyme supplements also seem to be quite helpful and represent an extension of dietary management. Chelation detox is kind of an inverse to supplementation. Chelation attempts to remove heavy metal toxins (like mercury, lead or cadmium) that may have accumulated over the years, especially in nerve and brain tissue. If autism is diagnosed in millions of children, how many children are touched by mild symptoms that just cause borderline learning problems? How many of these children could be helped by diet, supplements and chelation detoxification?

Kid Graphic for Learning Disability Overview covering ADD, ADHD, attention deficit, aphasia, autism, dyslexia, hyperactive, hyperactivity, prescription drugs, ritalin, preservative free diets and food allergy.ADD and ADHD (attention deficit disorders) are also on the rise. Estimates of prevalence range from 5% to 20% of the school population. It affects many families and opinions on the subject are quite emotional. Again, attention deficit disorders represent a broad category and no one set of symptoms, causes or cures will apply to all cases. However in many circumstances, certain drugs and diets can be very helpful and suggest that neurotransmitter chemicals may be strongly involved. Not everyone agrees, but the argument is quite plausible and is presented below.

The brain is built from billions of branching cells called neurons. Signals from one neuron are passed to other neurons by chemicals called neurotransmitters, norepinephrine being an important one. As norepinephrine is used, it breaks down into phenolic refuse which must be removed from the body by an enzyme called phenolsulfotransferase. If there is too little norepinephrine available, brain signals become weak like soft whispers. And if the refuse is not promptly removed, neurons become confused like someone in a noisy room. People with ADD or ADHD are believed to have weak supplies of neurotransmitters, poor means of removing the refuse or both. Drugs like Ritalin increase the availability of norepinephrine and bolster the strength of brain signals. On the flip side, diets like the Feingold program restrict a class of chemicals called phenols which can overload the refuse removal system. Phenols include such modern inventions as FD&C food colors and the petroleum based preservatives BHA, BHT and TBHQ. Take a look at a few food labels and see how widespread the use of such additives has become.

Kangaroo for Learning Disability Overview covering ADD, ADHD, attention deficit, aphasia, autism, dyslexia, hyperactive, hyperactivity, prescription drugs, ritalin, preservative free diets and food allergy.In Australia, the Allergy Unit at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital has taken a comprehensive look at the way diets interact with health and behavior. Analyzing data on 20,000 patients over a period of 20 years, various foods and additives have been correlated with problems ranging from headache, eczema, IBS, asthma and arthritis to anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, irritability and restlessness. Many of these foods and additives are listed above as problems for autism and attention deficit disorder. As packaged foods gain market share and as the world gets smaller, the number of natural and artificial ingredients in our diet grows. The odds of being exposed to something your body is not genetically equipped to digest grow even faster. After all, not everybody can handle the lactose in milk or the hundreds of other ingredients our evolutionary ancestors never imagined.

So what should you do if you suspect a learning disability?

1. Schedule a visit with your doctor for a general physical exam that should include vision and hearing tests. If appropriate, get a referral to a specialist in learning disability for a more complete analysis.
2. Make an appointment with your child's teacher to discuss your concerns. Be sure to address both classroom and homework issues. Often, it can be valuable to offer help and gain the teacher's goodwill.
3. Give your school office a written, dated request for an IEP (Individualized Educational Program) evaluation. Within a month, this request should initiate tests and meetings that may result in extra help during the school day.
4. Help your child organize their notebook, backpack and homework desk. Create a quiet space for homework and make sure time is used wisely. If you help with homework, be sure to explain and model the process used to work a problem or decode a word.
5. Consider diet, supplements, treatment and medication as your comfort level allows.

The table below lists interventions, diets and organizations that may help reduce chronic health, behavioral and learning problems. For more information, just click the Info column. Every individual is a custom blend of strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully, these links will help you to make informed, successful decisions.


Description of Link


Autism Autism Research Institute ( Autism Speaks )


Feingold Feingold Association Dietary Website


ADHD Attention Deficit Disorder Website Info
General Learning Disabilities Online Website


Affordable Colleges Online Resource Guide
Milk Who Needs Lactose? Milk Intolerance Site Info

The information presented is for general education only and does not pretend to represent medical advice. Before attempting any medical or dietary intervention, please consult your doctor or other professional to insure the safety of your child and to explore the complete range of treatments available.

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