Learning about Learning Disabilities

By Suzanne Reid

Have you ever found yourself struggling over your spelling curriculum? You try a new curriculum each year, only to find that it, too, doesn't work. You wonder, "How am I ever going to teach my child spelling?" You begin questioning your teaching abilities-maybe even your choice to homeschool.

The problem may not be that you haven't found the right spelling program. It may be that you are dealing with a child who learns differently—a child who has a learning disability (see www.dyslexia.com)

What is a Learning Disability?

The National Institute for Learning Disabilities defines it as such:

"A learning disability is an area of weakness or inefficiency in brain function that significantly hinders our ability to learn or to function in life. It is a pattern of neurological dysfunction in the brain that causes a person to have difficulty correctly receiving information coming into the brain (perception), correctly processing that information once it is received (cognition/thinking), or satisfactorily responding to the information once it has been processed (written and verbal expression, visual-motor coordination, memory, etc).

People with learning disabilities conversely also have an average to superior intelligence. Many are gifted in math, science, fine arts, journalism, and other creative fields. Interestingly, the list of those with learning disabilities includes a list of people renown for their significant contributions to human history: Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill, and many others.

Because these individuals are so intelligent, they quickly learn ways to compensate, and a homeschool parent might take years to recognize that he has a struggling learner. Proper evaluation and assessment is critical, however, because many different learning disabilities exist: Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Dyspraxia, among others. In this article we are addressing simply these more common learning struggles.

The Dyslexia Association of Singapore defines dyslexia as "a neurologically based specific learning difficulty that is characterized by difficulties in one or more of reading, spelling, and writing. Accompanying weaknesses may be identified in areas of language acquisition, phonological processing, working memory, and sequencing. Some factors that are associated with, but do not cause, dyslexia are poor motivation, impaired attention and academic frustration." (www.das.org.)

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) defines dyscalculia as a "mathematical disability in which a person has unusual difficulty solving arithmetic problems and grasping math concepts." (www.interdys.org)

The IDA defines dysgraphia as "a neurological-based writing disability in which a person finds it hard to form letters or write within a defined space." (www.interdys.org)

The National Center for Learning Disabilities defines dyspraxia as "a specific disorder in the area of motor skill development. People with dyspraxia have difficulty planning and completing intended fine motor tasks. It is estimated that dyspraxia affects at least 2 percent of the general population to some degree and about 70 per cent of those affected by it are male." (www.anglophonespecialkids.org)

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) ADD and ADHD are not learning disabilities, according to the IDA, but are behavioral disorders. (www.interdys.org)

If any of these disabilities sounds like your child, you might want to begin your study by reading more on the websites that provided at the end of each of the above definitions. Additionally, listed below are some resources, which are organized under the following categories: Testing & Evaluation, Vision Therapy, and Support Groups. Within the Testing & Evaluation and Vision Therapy sections, organizations offer a variety of services, including testing, therapy, and curriculum. In the Support Groups category, organizations offer websites, chat rooms, magazines and books to encourage families with struggling learners. This list is not exhaustive, and CHOIS welcomes any information you may provide for future articles. In interviewing the resources below, CHOIS learned that these organizations do not all agree on methodology, and therefore CHOIS strongly urges you to pray about your circumstance and interview the resources and their patients before selecting any learning disability specialist. Inclusion in this list is not meant as a CHOIS endorsement. The views and opinions held by the organizations are not necessarily those of CHOIS.

Testing & Evaluation

Advanced Biological Health (ABH)
(Formerly known as The High Performance Shop)
Rathdrum, Idaho
John and Michelle Hyatt
(208) 687-0493

Advanced Biological Health (ABH) is a Christian organization of specialists, who diagnose and correct neurological dysfunctions and their health-related issues for children as young as four to adults in their eighties (for strokes). They use non-invasive methods for diagnosing and correcting neurological dysfunctions, which have been developed by experts in the behavioral /neurological / health fields in recent years. One essential test, which they offer, is a two-part 12-point EEG Brain-Mapping. They recommend a variety of therapies, designed to build, strengthen, and accelerate neurological functioning and overall health. The cost for comprehensive Neurological Testing, which includes the EEG Brain-Mapping is $500.00. For homeschool families it is $350.00 (Multi-member family discount also available). HEG Neuro-feedback Therapy is $80 per treatment. For homeschool families it is $60.00. (If purchased in a block of ten sessions the homeschool price is $50.00 per session.)

Meadowbrook Educational Services, Inc.
Spokane Office
11011 South Cedar Road
Spokane, WA 99224-9623
(800) 371-6028 (509) 443-1737 www.meadowbrook-education.com/

Utilizing the Davis Program to train children new thinking skills to reduce the effects of dyslexia, Meadowbrook interviews and assesses to determine strengths and to set program goals; trains in self-help techniques for controlling perceptions and turning off disorientations. They test for processing style, low digit span testing, root causes, hearing, perception, post trauma. Tests cost $175 for 2-1/2 hours of testing and analysis. Their tests are an assessment not diagnostic.

National Association for Child Development (NACD)
National Office (Headquarters)
549 25th Street
Ogden, Utah 84401
(801) 621-8606

NACD is an international organization with a recently-formed chapter in Boise. NACD conducts neurodevelopmental and educational evaluations on a quarterly basis and develops individualized programs for children and adults. Once evaluated, NACD mails parents a DVD, which trains the parents how to implement the program at home. The DVD recommends an individual program designed specifically for each child and demonstrates a compilation of recommended activities for the parent to perform with their child. NACD provides followup e-mail and telephone sessions. NACD is an advocate of homeschooling, and estimates 50 percent of its clientele are homeschooled students. Since 1979 the NACD has helped over 30,000 people. The initial cost for a Level I student is $550. This includes evaluation and the DVD. To continue with NACD, receive ongoing counseling, and multiple services the family must apply for membership, which involves a monthly rate.

National Institute for Learning Disabilities (NILD)
Therapist: Connie Risser
3313 Wilson Lane
Nampa, ID 83686
Phone: 208-468-876
email: crisser@maf.org

The National Institute for Learning Disablities operates throughout the United States using individual therapists trained in the NILD methodology. Unfortunately Idaho currently has only one trained therapist who is available only for testing and counseling regarding ways to expand NILD's services in Idaho. The NILD methodology involves a battery of formal and informal psycho-educational tests, used to determine patterns of strengths and weaknesses as compared to intellectual ability. Price ranges from $150 to $300, which includes over three to four sessions, plus 10-12 hours of analysis and reporting. Ongoing therapy usually last three years.

905 W. Riverside Ave Suite 208
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 747-0165 neuroeducation@comcast.net

Neuroeducation applies strategies from the fields of psychology and education to help people overcome learning and behavioral challenges. Neuroeducation offers two kinds of services: psychological and behavioral (ADHD, Attention, Anxiety, Communication, Depression, Socialization, Conduct, Motivation, among others). The Learning Clinic offers tutoring for learning disabilities from grades kindergarten through college. Fees are as follows: $175 fee for intake, an initial introductory meeting (takes an hour); $135 per hour for 6 hours of evaluation; and consultation for one hour at $135. After this treatment varies in price depending on the circumstance.

Three D Learner Systems
Mira and Mark Halpert
(954) 341-2578

Mark and Mira Halpert, who had two of their own "3D learners," founded 3D Learner Systems. Their approach to learning disabilities is not to label them. Rather than ask the question, "Is my child dyslexic," one should ask, "How does my child learn best?" They "specialize in helping kids who learn best when they see and experience information." Their services include the following: a free on-line assessment with a 10 minute evaluation; a more comprehensive on-line 3-D Learner Full Assessment with 30 to 60-minute feedback sessions for $57; a home learning system for $500; one-on-one intense program in South Florida for $4,500; a 3-day group session for groups of 10 families or more for $895 per family.

Vision Therapy

Many people who have children with learning struggles have found remarkable help through vision therapy. According to Optometrists Network many children's problems with reading, learning, and behavior are caused by convergence insufficiency, eye tracking problems, esophoria, exophoria, and other visual problems. For further study on the difference between optometrists and ophthalmologists, learning disabilities as they relate to vision, and the theory behind vision therapy, please go to the following websites:

Below are some optometrists around the state of Idaho who specialize in these therapies.

Palouse Visual Learning Center
Randall Cummings, O.D.
2113 S. Main Street Moscow, ID 83843
208-892-2015 http://www.palousevision.com

Palouse Visual Learning Center provides: comprehensive eye examinations for all ages; treatment of eye diseases and co-management of surgery; vision therapy; treatment for learning-related vision problems, including ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, reading, and tracking problems, etc.; treatment for strabismus (eye turns) and amblyopia (lazy eye); visual rehabilitation for special populations; laser vision correction (LASIK); sports vision correction and/or improvement. Prices are $400 for 2 visits, 3 hours of eye exams and developmental evaluation; full routine exam $180, tests of eye coordination, eye health.

Dr. Alona M. King
Behavioral Optometrist
Board Certified: Vision Therapy
760 S. Woodruff
Idaho Falls, ID 83401
208-529-2701 (tel.)
208-525-9367 (fax)

Dr. King operates a family vision care practice with specialties in: pediatric optometry; vision therapy; sports vision; co-management of post cataract patients; contact lens services.

Advanced Eye Care Center
D. Todd Wylie, O.D., FCOVD
2420 E. 29th Avenue
Spokane, WA 99223
(509) 535-5855

Dr. Wylie's services include: comprehensive vision and eye health examinations; visual learning disorder diagnosis and treatment, including treatment for vision problems related to ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, Reading, and Tracking Problems, etc.; state certification for testing and treatment of eye diseases and disorders. Prices are $190 for initial comprehensive eye exam and $323 ($223 if already seen by Dr. Wylie); for further evaluation and ongoing therapy the office estimates $3000 to $4000.

HELPLearning Center/Artisan Optics
7960 West Rifleman Street, Suite 150
Boise, ID 83704
(208) 377-1310

Artisan Optics provides traditional medical exams, contacts, and laser vision correction with optometrists. HELPLearning Center offers dialated eye exams, vision therapy exams, and vision evaluations with therapists. Upon the collaboration of Dr. Johnson and Mr. Smith, a course of therapy is prescribed. Costs: Eye exam is $114 ; evaluation is $89; 3 month therapy (24 sessions) is $2,295, 6 month therapy (48 sessions) is $4495, 9 month therapy (72 sessions) is $6,495.

Support Groups

National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network and Christian Homes And Special Kids

Nathhan/Chask is a Christian organization, which exists to encourage homeschooling families with special needs children, in ways that glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and to find Christian homes for children with special needs. Found on the web at www.natthan.org, Nathhan offers a full-service web page with all the features of its magazine plus a discussion board and online applications for the lending library and family directory. Hundreds of articles from the last 14 years are included. They do not offer any evaluations. To enjoy many of the benefits of Nathhan, the organization requires an annual $25 fee.

Joni and Friends
Joni Eareckson Tada founded the ministry in 1979 to communicate the gospel and equip Christ-honoring churches worldwide to evangelize and disciple people affected by disabilities. The website offers information on a variety of resources, including a free monthly email, family retreats, daily devotionals, Christian curriculum, etc.

Recommended Reading

Teaching With the Brain In Mind
by Eric Jensen

Endangered Minds
by Jane M. Healy, Ph.D.

A Parent's Guide to Learning Disabilities
by A. D'Antoni, D. Minifie, E. Minifie

Keeping A Head In School
by Melvin D. Levine, M.D.

Recommended Websites

Home School Legal Defense Association

Internet Special Education Resources

The International Dyslexia Association

National Information Center for Children & Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)

Dyslexia Parents Resource

National Institute for Learning Disabilities (NILD)

Suzanne Reid is a former board member of ICHE and long-time home school mom. She and her husband home educated their two children from inception through high school graduation. Now that her children have completed college and are married, Suzanne is enjoying dating her husband and being a homeschool grandma. She has also returned to her graphic design business and is building websites for small business owners.

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