Say “learning disorder” and most people will immediately think of dyslexia. However, the brain can have difficulty receiving, processing and responding to all kinds of information and this can affect performance in the areas of writing, arithmetic, listening, speaking or spelling as well as reading.

Here are the most common misconceptions about what learning disorders are and how to manage them.

Myth #1: A learning disorder is a kind of intellectual disability

Unfortunately, many people believe that a specific learning disorder means that the person also has a generally deficient IQ. This is not the case. In fact, people with learning disorders can have high, average or low IQ scores, and their learning difficulty usually has nothing to do with how intelligent they are. For some people, having a difficulty in one area actually pushes them to compensate in others.

Myth #2: Learning disorders can be reversed with a special diet

It has been popular in recent years to link things like autism, ADHD and learning disorders to vaccines, gluten, dairy, sugar or preservatives in the diet. While a healthy diet is beneficial for every individual whether they have a learning disorder or not, there is zero evidence that a learning disorder can be fixed through diet or supplementation. Learning disorders are neurological and lifelong, so be wary of hucksters promising miraculous cures.

Myth #3: TV, video games and lack of discipline cause learning disorders

Learning disorders are varied and complex, and researchers are still uncovering their causes. It is a mistake, however, to think that learning disorders result in some way from bad parenting. There is sometimes a sense of guilt in parents who wonder whether they have failed their children somehow. Rest assured that learning disorders are not caused or worsened by TV or games, and are certainly not improved by punishment or sheer willpower.

Myth #4: A learning disorder is basically a different “learning style”

It is not a myth that certain children learn better through different channels. Most classrooms focus on verbal input and output, but your child may prefer information in a visual, auditory or even kinesthetic format. A learning disorder, however, is not a preference but a marked difficulty with a particular cognitive skill. Those with learning difficulties do often find that tailoring a study program that fits their unique skills and weaknesses can help them achieve.

Myth #5: Emotional problems or deprivation in childhood can cause learning disorders

Learning to read, write, speak and do arithmetic are almost miraculous feats, when you think about it. Learning is a complicated and long-term process, and certainly disruptions to this process can lead to a child who has delays in certain milestones. However, a learning disability is primarily neurological. Learning disorders often accompany other behavioural or mood problems, and can be exacerbated by an environment that is unsupportive, but they are not caused by these things alone.

A learning disorder can sometimes be difficult to really understand, and every individual is different. But millions of people all over the world have found ways to manage and work with their limitations as well as their strengths. It is more than possible to have a fulfilling school life and career with a learning disability. If your child has a diagnosed or suspected learning disorder, a counsellor or therapist can work with your family to find ways that they can adapt and excel at school and at home.

If you or someone you know would like to speak with someone regarding a learning disorder, click here to search for a qualified counsellor or therapist and let Australia Counselling help you.