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Causes and Treatment for Learning Disabilities

Causes and Treatment for Learning Disabilities

Researchers and professionals are researching more and more about causes and treatment for learning disabilities and neurological conditions. There are a multitude of complex reasons that these conditions exist, and understanding the causes can lead us to functional treatment options.


Learning disorders (such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia, non-verbal learning disorder, speech-deficit and hyperlexia) and neurological conditions (such as ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder [ASD]) share potential causes such as (but not limited to) genetics, brain injury, alcohol & drug usage during pregnancy, exposure to harmful environmental factors during pregnancy or in early childhood (such as lead), and a lack of oxygen to the infant’s brain during the pregnancy.


Neurological Conditions


There is also emerging research indicating that having various chromosomal conditions such as Fragile X Syndrome (a genetic mutation in which there are genes in the X gene resulting in various cognitive impairments); and Tuberous sclerosis, a genetic condition in which non-cancerous tumours grow on the brain and other organs, can cause neurological disorders.

An important factor to note is the parental age upon conception of the child. When parents are older than 35, the chances of the child being born with a neurological condition increase.

Complications during birth (such as a lack of oxygen to the brain) can also contribute to the potential of a neurological condition.


An important factor to note is that although neuro-developmental conditions can be caused by genetics, but epigenetics are a factor that play a role and must be considered in order to support those with these conditions, as well as their loved ones. Epigenetics is the study of how behaviours, and actions, can alter how genes work. Neurological conditions cannot be cured but can be managed through lifestyle changes and educational support.


Learning disorders:


The above mentioned learning disorders (such as dyslexia) are responsible for the impairment of information comprehension. These disorders can be premature birth, exposure to harmful substances in utero, infections the mother may have experienced during pregnancy, brain differences regarding reading and comprehension, and exposure to stress at a very young age.


The onset of adult dyslexia after a brain injury, stroke, or dementia. Dyslexia may also get worse as the person ages. Although dyslexia is a lifelong condition, there are educational interventions that manage to teach new ways of learning how to read and write, often by using said skills to change the wiring of the brain’s reading circuitry. These are not the only causes, and research is consistently being conducted to explore the complexity that is dyslexia (and other learning difficulties). Dyslexia cannot be medicated, but through educational interventions run by specialist teachers that slow down the lessons to give more dedicated time to each learning topic for a thorough education.


Treatment methods:


ABA therapy

ABA (Applied behavioural Analysis) is a therapeutic teaching technique addressing the causes and treatment for learning disabilities based on the belief that the child will give their best attempt if the reward is high enough. Using structured programmes, positive reinforcement, and patience, ABA can be used to teach communication skills, manage behaviours that are a by-product of the child’s condition, and generally assist the child in learning in a way that works for their brain.




There is no medication for learning disabilities and neurological conditions, but there are medications that can assist with the causes and treatment for learning disabilities and relieve some of the symptoms.

For people who are older, antipsychotic medication such as Aripiprazole and Risperidone could assist with the management of the irritability and overstimulation that presents in people with ASD and ADHD. There is also emerging research that indicates the use of mood stabilisers can help with similar symptoms. Stimulant medications, such as Ritalin, Concerta, and Vyvance or non-stimulant medication, like Strattera, can be used as assistive measures alongside other treatment strategies.


Make sure to run all medication decisions (including natural medications) past a professional to make sure that this is the safest and most helpful option that can be provided for the per. All people with neurological conditions are different, and what works for some, will not work for others, and it is a process of finding out what works for each person. It can take some time to find a balance, so remember that patience and compassion are the most important areas of this journey.




Dietary changes are such an important aspect of managing both learning and functioning.

There is a proven link between ASD, ADHD, and gastrointestinal problems. The discomfort this causes can impede on the ability to learn and concentrate, and for children with communication deficits, the inability to communicate their discomfort leads to behavioural problems and distress.


Some small changes that can be made, include providing the child with a high-protein, low-sugar diet, with minimal preservatives and colourants. Food is fuel, and for a person to be the best versions of themselves, they need to be physically taken care of too. Working alongside a dietitian could improve the person’s quality of life dramatically, especially in the assistance of managing food aversions that children with ADHD and ASD often struggle.




Consistent daily and sleep schedules are also of the utmost importance because structure and rest are known ways that everyone can use to better their functioning and their lives. Occupational therapy support can assist in both physical and organisational needs; and speech therapy can assist with oral motor development that may not only help with speech and communication, but strengthening of the mouth muscles so that the habit of mouthing can be managed, and the process of eating can improve, and the child can receive the nutrients they need to grow and develop.


Reinforcement, validation, and constant support are ways to boost the person’s self-esteem, so that they have the confidence and motivation to try their best in all facets of their life.

Article by: A. Pascoe (2023)