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Learning disabilities and chromosome abnormalities

Updated on December 9, 2012
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Learning disability background


Fifteen percent of the U.S. population, or one in seven Americans, has some type of learning disability, according to the National Institutes of Health. Difficulty with basic reading and language skills are the most common learning disabilities. As many as 80% of students with learning disabilities have reading problems. Learning disabilities often run in families. (http://www.ldonline.org/ldbasics/whatisld)

The definition of learning disabilities (LD) are, "neurological disorders that can make it difficult to acquire certain academic and social skills." (http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics) What that means is these neurological disorders affects the brain's ability to receive, process, store, and respond to information. (http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/ld-explained) Another question many ask is, what are the different types of LD's? Starting from the top we have Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Dyspraxia, Dysphasia/Aphasia, Auditory Processing Disorder, and Visual Processing Disorder. (http://www.helpguide.org/mental/learning_disabilities.htm)

I bet by now your mind is probably going 100 different directions trying to understand how these 7 LD's affects people. Dyslexia means difficulty with reading, writing, spelling and speaking. Dyscalculia means difficulty with doing math problems or understanding the concept of time and money. Dysgraphia is a writing disorder that also affects spelling like Dyslexia but also affects the organization of the writing. Dyspraxia affects motor planning and coordination, balance, and manuel dexterity. Dysphasia/Aphasia means problems understanding spoken language and poor reading comprehension. Both Visual and auditory processing disorders make it difficult understanding what is being read, comprehension of text, language contexts, math, maps, charts, symbols, and pictures. (http://www.helpguide.org/mental/learning_disabilities.htm)


Early warning signs of LD

Preschool

  • Late talking, compared to other children
  • Pronunciation problems
  • Slow vocabulary growth, often unable to find the right word
  • Difficulty rhyming words
  • Trouble learning numbers, the alphabet, days of the week
  • Extremely restless and easily distracted
  • Trouble interacting with peers
  • Poor ability to follow directions or routines

Kinder through 4th grade

  • Slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
  • Confuses basic words (run, eat, want)
  • Makes consistent reading and spelling errors including letter reversals (b/d), inversions (m/w), transpositions (felt/left), and substitutions (house/home)
  • Transposes number sequences and confuses arithmetic signs (+, -, x, /, =)
  • Slow recall of facts
  • Slow to learn new skills, relies heavily on memorization
  • Impulsiveness, lack of planning
  • Unstable pencil grip
  • Trouble learning about time
  • Poor coordination, unaware of physical surroundings, prone to accidents (http://www.readingrockets.org/article/226/)

Chromosomes

About 1 in 150 babies in the United States is born with a chromosomal abnormality. Many children with a chromosomal abnormality have mental and/or physical birth defects. Some chromosomal abnormalities result in miscarriage or stillbirth. (http://www.marchofdimes.com/baby/birthdefects_chromosomal.html)

Chromosomes are thread-like structures located inside the nucleus of animal and plant cells. Each chromosome is made of protein and a single molecule of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Passed from parents to offspring, DNA contains the specific instructions that make each type of living creature unique. The term chromosome comes from the Greek words for color (chroma) and body (soma). Scientists gave this name to chromosomes because they are cell structures, or bodies, that are strongly stained by some colorful dyes used in research. (http://www.genome.gov/26524120) The human body contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46. Twenty-two of these pairs, called autosomes, look the same in both males and females. The 23rd pair, the sex chromosomes, differ between males and females. Females have two copies of the X chromosome, while males have one X and one Y chromosome.(http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/basics/howmanychromosomes)

Chromosomal abnormalities result from mutations which change the number of chromosomes (numerical abnormalities) or change the structure of the chromosome (structural abnormalities). They may alter the ability of the cell to survive and function. (http://www.greenfacts.org/glossary/abc/chromosome-abnormalities.htm)

Types of chromosome abnormalities

  • Numerical: extra sets of chromosomes.
  • Structural: include translocation, deletions, ring chromosomes, duplications, inversions, isochromosomes and microdeletions. (http://www.rarechromo.org/html/ChromosomesAndDisorders.asp)

How are learning disabilities and chromosome abnormalities related

Since 15% of the worlds population is born with a learning disability and 1 out of 150 births have a chromosome abnormality, it could be argued that these learning disabilities could be caused by abnormal chromosomes. However learning disabilities technically occur more frequently then chromosome abnormalities so that may not be the case. Furthermore not every child that has been diagnosed with learning disabilities has had their chromosomes screened so the occurrence of 1:150 may be incorrect.

For example I have 5 people in my immediate family, myself, husband and 3 biological children. My son and I do not have any chromosome abnormalities but both of us still have learning disabilities. He has dyslexia and dyspraxia and I have poor navigational skills which gets me lost the majority of the time. On the other hand my daughter and my husband have a microdeletion of the 10th chromosome and share many learning disabilities. They both have problems with reading, writing, spelling, math computation /comprehension, organization and poor motor planning and coordination. My husband has been diagnosed with Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia and Dyspraxia, but my daughter is still to young to have all these diagnoses so for right now she has been diagnosed with Dyspraxia and Academic learning disorder. We have to wait until she is older to see if she meets the criteria for the other learning disabilities like my husband but it really depends on the difference between her performance IQ and verbal IQ. Currently what separates my husband from my daughter is he has a normal IQ and she doesn't. Also my husband and my son have found ways to compensate for their disabilities and she hasn't. I am still working on my poor navigational skills so I have to bring someone with me so I don't get lost. It takes me driving to and from places at least 3 times for me to remember. My second son is only 3 and so far isn't exhibiting any learning difficulties so his chromosomes have not been screened. However since my husband passed his deletion to our daughter the Genetics Dr recommended that the rest of his family have their chromosomes screened to see if the deletion is the cause for their learning disabilities as well.


What I learned

What I learned from this whole process is to never give up if you feel something is wrong. Granted no mother should compare children but my sons are able to learn things much faster then my daughter. Also Doctors are only practicing physicians and go off of what the norm is and what experience they have. None of the Doctors thought my daughter needed to have her chromosomes screened because she doesn't have any physical differences like kids with chromosome abnormalities usually do and neither does my husband. I kept pushing the Doctors to do more testing because I knew that there had to be reason why she is behind 3 years in her development. It took me 3 yrs of going back and forth with Doctors to finally get a cause for all of her learning and medical problems. Always remember you know your child best and you are not crazy. Don't let the Doctors say but you are an inexperienced mother who doesn't know any better..

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    • profile image

      Ume Lydia 

      6 years ago

      she's so right...thank god u've bin able to cope with all dis.

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