Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder or learning disability that affects your ability to read. Children and adults with dyslexia may struggle to read fluently, sound out unfamiliar words, or spell correctly despite having normal or even better than average intelligence. Signs of dyslexia may be present early; a preschooler with dyslexia may struggle to recognize his or her name, identify rhyming words, or memorize nursery rhymes.
The underlying cause of dyslexia is neurological; we know from neuroimaging studies that the brains of kids and adults with dyslexia work differently from the brains of those without dyslexia, particularly in the brain regions crucial to language and reading. At the core of dyslexia is a weakness in phonological processing; however, since reading is a complex process, it is likely that different patterns of linguistic, learning, perceptual, and attentional functions contribute to reading difficulties for different people.
Early and accurate identification of dyslexia is important so that an effective reading intervention program can be implemented as soon as possible. A neuropsychological evaluation can not only help identify dyslexia but also help determine the exact pattern of cognitive strengths and weaknesses so that the intervention can be tailored to your specific needs.
Dysgraphia is a learning disorder that affects writing skills. Children and adults with dysgraphia may have difficulty with spelling, handwriting, or expressing their thoughts in writing. Like all other learning disabilities, dysgraphia has neurological basis. Since writing is a complex process involving a number of cognitive and motor functions, disruption in any of those mechanisms can result in a writing disability. The difficulties may lie in visual memory, visuospatial skills, fine motor control, or motor planning. Since reading and writing share many cognitive and neural mechanisms, many people with dyslexia struggle with writing as well.
A neuropsychological evaluation can help pinpoint the likely specific cognitive weakness underlying the writing difficulties. With the knowledge of the exact strengths and weaknesses, an effective intervention program can be developed to help you become a better writer.
Disorder of Mathematics/Dyscalculia
Dyscalculia is a learning disability that results in difficulty understanding math. People with dyscalculia may struggle with performing basic arithmetic operations, understanding and solving math problems or understanding math concepts, such as fractions, percentages, carrying, or borrowing. These difficulties occur in children and adults with normal intelligence and can cause significant math anxiety and difficulty in school.
Dyscalculia has a neurological basis. Although it is not yet fully understood, we know that people with dyscalculia show differences in their brain networks that are activated during mathematical processing. From a cognitive standpoint, we know that people with dyscalculia may have specific difficulties in understanding, comparing, or manipulating numbers or more general weaknesses in attention, working memory, or visuospatial functions. Since these more general cognitive processes are not specific to math, dyscalculia may be present along with other learning disabilities, such as dyslexia.
It is important to identify math learning disabilities as early as possible so that effective interventions and accommodations can be put in place. A neuropsychological evaluation can help identify dyscalculia and the cognitive difficulties likely contributing to it and help set up an effective treatment plan.
Nonverbal Learning Disabilities (NVLDs)
Unlike dyslexia or dyscalculia, nonverbal learning disability is not a specific disorder but rather a category of learning problems that are not language-based. These are difficulties that may affect academic and/or social functioning often manifesting as visuospatial problems, sensorimotor difficulties, problems with higher-order information processing, or social skills. Since this is a broad category, typical difficulties vary a great deal, from trouble tying shoes in a younger child to understanding non-verbal cues in social situations. Since NVLD is not a specific diagnosis, when it is suspected, a neuropsychological evaluation can be particularly valuable in helping identify the specific pattern of cognitive, sensory, motor, or social problems so that they can be addressed as quickly and effectively as possible.