Learning Disorders

How to Spot Learning Disorders

Every child has a unique learning style and pace. However, some children may experience difficulties in processing information, which can harm their academic performance and overall well-being. These challenges are commonly referred to as learning disorders or disabilities.

How do you know if your child has a learning disorder, or is just unique in the way they learn? When do you seek help? How can you provide support? First, we need to know what learning disorders are.

What Are Learning Disorders?

Learning disorders are conditions that affect how individuals acquire, process, organize, and express information. These disorders are not a sign of low intelligence. Rather, they reflect different ways the brain processes and understands certain types of information. Some common learning disorders include:

  • Dyslexia — difficulty with reading
  • Dyscalculia — difficulty with math
  • Dysgraphia — difficulty with writing
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Identifying Learning Disorders

Recognizing the signs of a learning disorder is crucial for development. While each disorder has specific characteristics, there are common warning signs to watch for:

  • Academic struggles — Difficulties in reading, writing, spelling, math, or comprehension that are not in line with the child's age or intellectual ability.
  • Behavioral issues — Hyperactivity, impulsivity, or difficulties following instructions and staying focused.
  • Memory challenges — Difficulty retaining information, forgetfulness, or struggles with organizing thoughts.
  • Poor coordination — Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as handwriting or using scissors.
  • Emotional and social difficulties — Low self-esteem, frustration, anxiety, withdrawal, or challenges in social interactions.

These signs alone do not confirm a learning disorder, but they may indicate the need for further assessment.

When to Seek Help

If you suspect your child may have a learning disorder, it's essential to meet with professionals for an accurate diagnosis. Consider seeking help if:

  • Your child's academic performance lags behind peers despite extra support and effort.
  • Behavioral or emotional difficulties happen often, impacting your child's well-being and social interactions.
  • Teachers or other professionals raise concerns about your child's learning or behavior.
  • You notice a meaningful gap between your child's abilities and achievements in different areas.

Strategies for Support

Once a learning disorder is diagnosed, there are several ways to support and empower children:

  • Individualized Education Plan (IEP) — Work with teachers and school staff to develop an IEP that addresses your child's specific needs. This plan outlines strategies, changes, and support services to ease learning challenges.
  • Specialized instruction — Explore counseling, therapies, or tutoring programs designed for children with specific learning disorders, such as multisensory reading programs for dyslexia.
  • Assistive technology — Use technology that can aid learning and compensate for specific challenges, such as text-to-speech software or graphic organizers.
  • Emotional support — Create a supportive environment at home and school, encouraging open communication and building self-esteem.

You’re Not Alone

Learning disorders can present unique challenges for children, but with early detection and support, they can thrive academically and emotionally. AltaMed has skilled pediatricians and behavioral health professionals who can help. Additionally, AltaMed at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has pediatricians that specialize in developmental and behavioral diagnoses that could assist your child or adolescent. Call us at (323) 669-2113.

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The Facts about ADHD

Kids can be impulsive. There are plenty of things they would rather be doing each day than sitting in a classroom, behaving in church, or getting together for some boring “adult” activity. That’s normal.

When that behavior begins to disrupt their schoolwork, and leads to trouble at home or with friends, it could be a case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is “one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood.” It’s something kids don’t normally outgrow, often lasting into adulthood.

With proper diagnosis, however, ADHD can be treated and controlled. 

ADHD History

The condition was first recognized by a Scottish doctor near the end of the 18th century. In 1902, Sir George Frederic Still talked about impulsive behavior in children of typical intelligence.

Hyperkinetic disease was described by two German doctors in 1932. The condition prevented children from sitting still in class and getting along with schoolmates. It started in children as young as 3 and peaked by the age of 6.

In 1937, it was discovered that Benzedrine, a stimulant, caused a decrease in the patient’s hyperactivity. By 1954, Ritalin became the most widely used drug to treat children with ADHD.

By the Numbers

It is estimated that as many as 6 million children between 3 to 17 years old have been diagnosed with ADHD. That includes:

  • 265,000 3 to 5 years old
  • 2.4 million 6 to 11 years old
  • 3.3 million 12 to 17 years old

Boys are twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. Black non-Hispanic children, and White non-Hispanic children are most often diagnosed with ADHD — 12% and 10% respectively — compared with Hispanic children (8%) or Asian non-Hispanic children (3%).

The number of children diagnosed with ADHD has increased steadily each year.

Potential Symptoms

Many children will have problems focusing. That doesn’t mean they have ADHD. However, it’s important to look out for:

  • Daydreaming
  • Forgetfulness
  • Losing things
  • Fidgeting
  • Being overly chatty
  • Taking unnecessary risks
  • Carelessness
  • Exceedingly poor impulse control
  • Difficulty taking turns
  • Difficulty getting along with others
  • Difficulty keeping their grades up. 

Causes and Risk Factors

Researchers continue to look for the exact causes of ADHD. Some factors they have identified include:

  • Genetics — Studies show it may run in families.
  • Environment — Environmental factors, such as lead exposure, may increase risk.
  • Development issues — Problems with the nervous system during key moments of childhood development could be a factor.
  • Exposure to environmental factors during pregnancy — Exposure to smoke, alcohol, or  drugs during pregnancy could be a risk factor.
  • Premature birth — This could be another risk factor.

Coexisting Conditions

ADHD can be extremely frustrating, especially if it isn’t diagnosed until adulthood. Dealing with the forgetfulness, inattentiveness, poor performance at school, work, or in relationships, can lead to the development of other conditions. These include:

  • Mood disorders — Depression and bipolar disorder are common. They are not directly tied to ADHD but could be related due to a repeated pattern of failures and frustrations that result from ADHD.
  • Anxiety disorders — Anxiety can become amplified because of the challenges of ADHD.
  • Learning disabilities — Adults with ADHD could score lower on academic testing and may have greater difficulty with understanding and communicating.
  • Other disorders — Personality disorders and substance use disorders pose a greater risk because of undiagnosed or untreated ADHD.

Here to Help

ADHD is common and there are treatments for children AND adults. If you believe you or a loved one might have symptoms of ADHD, AltaMed has skilled pediatricians and behavioral health professionals who can help. Also, AltaMed at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has pediatricians that specialize in developmental and behavioral diagnoses that could assist your child or adolescent. Call us at (323) 669-2113.


How Much Sleep Do your Children Need?

Nearly every parent knows the struggle of getting their child to bed. They’re “not tired” or need “just five more minutes.”

It’s likely you tried to stay up late when you were a kid, too. Now, you probably wish naps and an early bedtime were mandatory.

Sleep is vital for the health and well-being of all of us, but especially for children. As they grow and develop, their sleep needs change, and it is important to ensure that they are getting enough rest at each stage of their development. Here’s how much sleep your family needs at every age, and more importantly, why:

Newborns (0-3 months)

Newborns require a lot of sleep to support their rapid growth and development. They need 14-17 hours of sleep per day, but they typically do not sleep for more than two to four hours at a time. It is important for parents to establish a consistent sleep routine for their newborns to help them learn the difference between day and night. Newborns and infants should sleep on their backs in their own bassinet or cribs on a firm mattress without pillows or heavy blankets. 

Infants (4-11 months)

Infants continue to require a lot of sleep to support their growth and development. They need 12-15 hours per day, but they typically start to sleep for longer stretches at night. It is important for parents to maintain a consistent sleep routine for their infants and to make sure they are not overtired, as this can lead to difficulty falling and staying asleep. Most infants should sleep through the night (6-8 hours) without waking by 6 months of age.

Toddlers (1-2 years)

Toddlers need 11-14 hours of sleep per day, including one nap. As they become more active and curious, toddlers may resist going to bed, but it is important for parents to enforce a regular bedtime routine to help them wind down and prepare for sleep. “Brush, Book, Bed” is a great way to structure your child’s bedtime routine.  This routine consists of brushing your child’s teeth, reading a book to your child, and then putting them to sleep.

Preschoolers (3-5 years)

Preschoolers need 10-13 hours of sleep per day, including one nap. Like toddlers, preschoolers may resist going to bed, but it’s still important they adhere to a regular schedule. Some children may drop their nap around 4 years of age, but their total sleep should remain the same.

School-aged children (6-12 years)

School-aged children need 9-12 hours of sleep. As they become more involved in school and extracurricular activities, it can become harder to balance sleep with new responsibilities. Parents can allow for some flexibility but should still set cut offs where electronics, schoolwork, etc. are put away.

Teenagers (13-18 years)

Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep per day. As their bodies go through puberty, their sleep patterns may shift, and they may have difficulty falling asleep and waking up early for school. At this age, it becomes hardest to monitor your children’s sleep patterns. Encourage them to prioritize a healthy schedule and to not overcommit to extracurriculars, work, or social obligations. 

Why do children need so much sleep?

During sleep, the body produces growth hormones, which helps children grow and repair tissues. Sleep also plays a critical role in brain development and learning. Children who get enough sleep are more alert, attentive, and have better cognitive function, memory, and mood.

Not getting enough sleep can have serious consequences for children, including:

  • Poor academic performance
  • Behavioral problems
  • Mood disorders
  • Obesity
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Weakened immune system

It is important to observe your child for signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea such as snoring, gasping for air, extreme restless sleep, or extreme daytime sleepiness. If you observe these symptoms, please let you provider know. 

Your parenting partner

AltaMed provides a complete host of pediatric services including age-appropriate immunizations and screenings, as well and information on developmental milestones. For information or to make an appointment call (888) 499-9303.

How to Spot Learning Disorders