I've compiled a brief outline of some common learning difficulties and disorders. This is for people who know they are struggling, but aren't sure what their problem might be, or for people who are interested in finding out more about what these disorders entail.
When reading these lists please remember that they're only a brief summary and that each condition is far more complex. People with a condition don't necessarily display all of the symptoms described, and a person's symptoms may overlap with more than one condition.
This guide was originally put together by Craghyrax and further developed by River85, Titch89 and k9ruby on TSR Forums. Here you'll find a more complete list as well as links to support groups and charity organisations.
ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) are developmental disorders with the following effects:
- Delayed development in quite a few areas
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty completing tasks
- Difficulty following instructions
- Missing details and being disorganised
- Talking excessively
- Often interrupting/struggling to wait for turn before acting.
A pervasive developmental disorder on the Autistic Spectrum
Asperger's Syndrome can affect people in the following ways:
- A narrow interest or obsession with a particular subject or interest
- Repetitive behaviours or rituals
- Unusual language or speech ( for instance using more outdated 'proper' English..etc)
- Very logical or technical thinking
- Socially and emotionally inappropriate behaviour and interpersonal interaction
- Problems with non-verbal communication (eg facial expressions and body language)
- Sometimes clumsy/uncoordinated
- A tendency to think very literally, and interpret things literally (problems understanding subtlety)
- Can be very pedantic
- Can experience sensory overload (Sensory Integration Dysfunction)
We all feel down or a “bit blue” every now and then. However, this is not depression. Depression is a condition characterised by chronic low mood and a range of other symptoms, mental, physical and social. These include: -
- Continuous low mood, or sadness,
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of guilt
- Feeling irritable and intolerant towards others
- Lack of motivation, and little interest in things in general
- Lack of enjoyment
- Suicidal thoughts, or thoughts of harming someone else
- Feeling anxious or worried
- A reduced sex drive (loss of libido)
- Slowed movement and speech
- Change in appetite and weight
- Digestive complaints, such as indigestion, constipation or diarrhoea
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Lack of energy and a lack of interest in sex (lower libido)
- And, for women, changes to the menstrual cycle
- Not performing well at work or at school/college/university
- Taking part in fewer social activities, and avoiding contact with friends
- Reduced hobbies and interests
- Difficulties in home and with family life.
This list is not exhaustive. The presentation of depression can vary from person to person. However, remember that even if a number of these symptoms present themselves, depression may not be the correct diagnosis- see a GP. Never rely on the internet for a correct diagnosis of anything.
Dyscalculia is a Learning Disability described as:
“An inability to conceptualize numbers as abstract concepts of comparative quantities.."
People with Dyscalculia experience the following:
- Confuse maths symbols like + or –
- Can’t tell which of two numbers are larger
- May use fingers to count
- Struggle with things like reading clocks or counting change
- Struggle with budgeting or estimating costs
- Experience difficulties with timetables or mental arithmetic
- Experience difficulties with judging time
- Have problems discerning left from right
- Poor sense of direction, and difficulty with mental navigation
- Experience difficulties measuring distance
- Experience difficulties grasping mathematical concepts, formulae, etc
- Experience difficulties keeping score during games (especially games with more flexible rules for scoring)
- Have a phobia of Maths
- Experience difficulties with activities requiring sequential processing.
Dyslexia is a learning disability
People with Dyslexia may experience any of these symptoms:
- Problems with reading, spelling and writing (these would be severely below average)
- May learn better through hands on demonstration and visuals
- Struggle concentrating
- May feel stupid or have a low self esteem
- Same intelligence range as that of those without dyslexia
- May struggle with left and right, or determining before or after
- Might have or have had difficulty speaking properly due to a struggle to learn and hear words properly. So..may battle with things like understanding directions, finding words to express themselves..etc
- Poor, slow handwriting
- May have poor coordination and clumsiness
- Often find remembering simple things challenging.
People with Dyspraxia experience the following difficulties:
- Clumsiness, poor balance and difficulty picking up and holding things.
- Difficulty telling left from right, and problems with spatial awareness (judging distances/positioning...etc)
- Sensory Integration Dysfunction (being overly or underly sensitive to stimuli from one or more of the five senses) which may trigger panic attacks.
- Difficulty sleeping due to inability to ‘shut brain down’.
- Distractability and daydreaming
- Short term memory difficulties
- Tiredness (due to the extra difficulty of performing normal tasks)
- Often frustration and low self-esteem
Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that is characterised by recurrent seizures.
There are a various different types of seizures depending on which part of the brain is affected. These include partial and generalised seizures.
- In simple partial seizures consciousness is not affected. The person remains fully aware of what’s happening to them. They will still be able to perform routine tasks whilst having the seizure and any onlooker will not be aware of it. Symptoms may also include strange sensations (feeling of fear or intense happiness, strange smells or taste, feeling of “déjà vu”).
- In complex partial seizures consciousness is affected. Complex partial seizures will usually start as a simple partial seizure (called an “aura”) and then progress to the complex seizure. There is a loss of consciousness and the person may display certain behaviours or actions such as “lip smacking” or other automotive behaviours before returning to full consciousness.
There are also generalised seizures. These include: -
- Absence seizures. During an absence seizure the person will lose consciousness and may look as though they are staring into space. There may be muscle twitching or jerking. However, this isn’t always the case.
- Myoclonic seizures - These are involuntary movements of the muscles. The muscles contract and relax rapidly causing “jumping movements”.
- Tonic-clonic seizures. These are the seizures most people think of when they hear the world “epilepsy”. It may start as an “aura”, a “warning feeling” of déjà vu or strange sensations described earlier. However, the person then loses full consciousness, stiffens and suffers from convulsions. After the seizure the person will often be confused, disorientated, tired and may also have temporal amnesia.
High Functioning Autism
People with HFA are autistic, but have a normal or above average IQ.
HFA may affect people in the following ways:
- Battle to predict reaction of society to their behaviour
- Can be overly trusting or alternatively paranoid towards strangers
- Experience sensory integration dysfunction (overly or underly sensitive to stimuli from senses)
- Can be very detached/distant
- May struggle to retain eye contact
- Overly serious, no capacity for ‘small talk’
- Clumsiness and coordination problems
- Can be empathetic but have difficulty communicating or expressing emotion
- Are capable of being intensely focused
ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)
ME stands for Myalgic encephalomyelitis and is also sometimes called chronic fatigue syndrome. It's a variabily debilitating disorder and cause extreme long-lasting (at least six months) fatigue and exhaustion.
Symptoms of CFS include: -
- Widespread muscle & joint pain
- Cognitive difficulties (including difficulties with memory and concentration).
- Severe mental and physical exhaustion
- Muscle weakness
- Digestive disturbances
Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified
Pervasive Developmental Disorder is a group of disorders characterised by delays in the development of multiple basic functions including socialization and communication. The group includes Autism and Aserger's Disorder. Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified), often just called PDD, is used when a person first the PDD profile but can't be categorised by any specific disorder.
Sensory Intergrative Disorder
Sometimes abbreviated to "SID" or called "Sensory Processing Disorder", it is a neurological condition that causes difficulties with processing information from the senses (the five classic senses; sight, sound, touch, taste and smell plus movement and the sense of position). Information from the sense is still sense normally, but processed differently and causes distress.
Signs of SPD include: -
- Physical clumsiness
- Unusually high or low activity movements
- Inapproptiate response (often particularly sensitive) to touch, sights, sounds etc.
- Poor self-esteem
A person can be diagnosed with a Sensory Processing Disorder alone, however, it is also linked to other conditions such as Autistic Spectrum Disorders (Autism, High Functioning Autism and Asperger's Disorder), Developmental Disorders (eg. Dyspraxia), Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder and some specific learning disabilities (eg. Dyslexia).