When working with children with learning difficulties it is often noted that a student will "shut down" when given a specific type of task. This type of problem can be demonstrated by a student who rejects auditory information in favor of visual information and vice versa. Sometimes one is unable to process reading orally when they are able to do well reading silently or even when too much auditory information is given and the brain is unable to process accurately or effectively.
Deficits in learning can be either verbal or nonverbal. Verbal deficits are more easily recognized and remediation is better established. Relationships can also be seen between understanding the spoken word and speaking, as well as between reading and writing. These relationships are essential to learning and we also discuss problems in terms of input-output. The concept that learning is systematic and sequential and that input (receptive) must come before output (expressive) is critical to the process.
Overloading becomes significant in the classroom especially for children with specific learning disabilities. Teachers using multi-sensory approaches are appropriate but it is essential to understand that not all children can screen out the additional information which is bombarding them. A dysfunction in the brain lowers tolerance limits for processing information. When over stimulation occurs the child may demonstrate symptoms of disintegration such as confusion, poor recall, random movements, poor attention, dis-inhibition and in rare cases, even seizures. The information being received through a specific sensory path can impede the integration of information in another pathway. Overloading can cause a generalized breakdown in brain processes which has implications for reducing the ability to learn as well as the total well-being of the child.
Experiences working with children with learning disabilities over the past forty years have demonstrated that receptive and expressive capabilities can be intact but very debilitating learning problems may still be present at the integration level. For example, at one level of deficits in the spoken word is echolalia or one who can only repeat words while at the same level of deficits in the read word is the word caller or one who recognizes but assigns no meaning to the read word. In both cases, meaning can not be attached to either the spoken or the read word and a severe disability exists.
The science of how humans learn and complete complex thinking processes continues to expand each day. Hopefully, the means to help ameliorate learning problems will also keep pace with neuroscience so that no child will again have to suffer from specific learning disabilities.