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The lack of awareness and the many misunderstandings about learning differences, despite how prevalent they are, have led to damaging myths, misconceptions, and a stigma that those impacted must work hard to overcome. Chances are you know someone with a learning disability. One in five children in the United States have learning and attention issues such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD or other executive function disorders, according to a study by the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) (State of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5). Understanding the truths about learning disabilities is key to supporting and encouraging a child who may be struggling to learn, feeling anxiety, and more.

Today, we’re covering five common myths and sharing the facts to help set the record straight. At The Janus School, we empower students with learning differences to be the best versions of themselves and help them develop strategies to achieve academic and personal success both in and out of the classroom. Fostering conversations like this, about what learning differences are and what they are not, helps spread awareness for our students, their families, and within their communities.

Myth #1: Learning Disabilities are Intellectual Disabilities

The Truth: Learning disabilities are completely separate from physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Rather, learning disabilities are communication differences that result when a brain is wired differently for learning. Children (and adults) with learning and attention issues are as smart as their typically developing peers and many have average or above-average intelligence. The symptoms of an undiagnosed learning difference can be complex and are often misunderstood. The primary issue, when not addressed with proper support, can also lead to secondary symptoms such as anxiety or depression. For many, challenges are chalked up to a behavioral problem or lack of effort, when in fact, an underlying learning difference is to blame.

Myth #2: All Learning Disabilities Are the Same

The Truth: There are a variety of learning disabilities and each can have a different impact on different individuals.

While the shared prefix “dys” (meaning difficulty) may link many of the terms, how they impact an individual’s ability to learn and function are very different. In addition, how any one disorder impacts different individuals can vary dramatically from person to person. This is why it’s critical for children and adults struggling with learning differences to receive individualized support that helps address their specific learning challenges.

Myth #3: A Child Can "Just Work Harder" to Overcome a Learning Disability

The Truth: When it comes to learning and attention issues, “trying harder” is simply not the answer. Children and adults with these challenges process information differently. They need personalized support and to be empowered with tools and strategies they can use to work on and around their learning and processing differences.

The attitude of “well, I made it through, so they will too,” can be a major barrier to a student getting the help they need to thrive in school, at home and in social situations. In fact, 78 percent of parents surveyed in the NCLD study noted they felt any child could do well in school if he or she tried hard enough. Among the classroom teachers and other educators surveyed, 33 percent believed that sometimes what people call a learning or attention issue is really just laziness. These misperceptions can lead to significant barriers for those struggling with a learning difference.

Myth #4: A Learning Disability Diagnosis Will Negatively Impact My Child's Future

The Truth: With the right support, your child can be empowered to become his or her best advocate, gain self-confidence, and learn strategies to overcome challenges and thrive in school, work, and life.

From a desire to avoid a label to misconceptions that a diagnosis will negatively impact their child’s future opportunities in school or a career, there are a lot of fears and misgivings that parents face when they learn their student may be struggling with a learning disability. Of the parents surveyed in the NCLD study, 43 percent said that they wouldn’t want others to know if their child had a learning disability. The reality is, without the right support, these children are more likely to continue struggling and experience emotions like anxiety and depression, as a result from the frustration of trying to push through while feeling misunderstood, incapable, or doubtful. However, when a child with a learning disability is empowered with tools and strategies to understand and manage their learning differences, they receive the gift of a lifted burden and the opportunity to excel, unlock their potential, and have self-confidence.

Myth #5: Learning Disabilities Fade with Time/Can be Cured

The Truth: Learning and attention challenges are the result of brain structure and function, not something you can “get rid of.”

Symptoms can change over time and seeking the needed support can help students and adults manage their challenges, but they don’t make the issues “go away.” Of the parents surveyed by NCLD, 48 percent believed children can grow out of learning disabilities. This, however, is far from the truth. At The Janus School, we openly talk to students and their families about how a learning difference is a part of who they are and always will be. We help them understand that the right tools and tactics can help them harness their learning difference and become a self-motivated advocate for the ongoing support they need and deserve.

Help Us Change the Conversation

Whether fueled by fear, a gap in understanding, or simply a lack of awareness, these common learning disability myths can be extremely damaging to the children and adults living with learning differences. Understanding the facts and engaging in open and honest conversations is an important first step in setting the record straight and creating a culture of awareness and support. At The Janus School, the only independent K-12 day school in Central Pennsylvania dedicated to the needs of students with learning differences, we’re here to answer questions and help families get connected to the information and resources they need. Janus is a private school in Lancaster, PA, with students from Dauphin, York, Lebanon, Berks, Cumberland, and Lancaster County and beyond. Helping families get on the right path can be life changing. Not all great minds think alike, and empowering students with the right tools, techniques and personal support can unlock their gifts and potential in the classroom and in life.

What if I suspect my child is struggling with a learning difference or disability?

If you believe your child may be struggling with a learning disability or difference, get in touch. Our team can help connect you with the resources and support to take the next positive step for your child and family.

Have Questions? Want to Learn More?

We’re here to help. Reach out to speak with a member of The Janus School team today.

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