Chapter 2


What Causes Learning Disabilities?


Words to know for chapter 2:


Trauma - something bad that lasts a long time


Deprived - not getting something that you need


Heredity - when relatives have some of the same characteristics


Genetic - characteristics you get in your 'genes' from parents


Programming - getting your brain ready for 'processing'



'Now that we understand more about the

mystery to be solved, we'd better find out how the mystery might have started in the first place.'


What causes a learning disability?


When you begin to realize that a learning disability is really the result of a difference in your brain, it is natural to wonder how this could have happened. Actually, nobody really knows for sure how a learning disability develops, but the following are believed to be probable causes:


•Birth trauma: Sometimes before or during the birth process babies lose blood, are deprived of oxygen, or get chemicals into their blood. When a baby's brain is given certain kinds of chemicals or does not get enough blood or oxygen, permanent brain damage can occur. Many LD students have had some sort of 'trauma' either before or during their birth.


•Heredity: LD tends to 'run' in families. A parent who has difficulty processing information may simply pass this along genetically. This seems to be the most common cause of LD.


•Lead poisoning: When young children eat, drink, or breathe anything that contains lead (old paints, car exhaust, old plumbing, etc.), brain damage (and a learning disability) can develop.


•Accident: If a person experiences a head injury, brain damage can occur which leads to a learning disability.


•Incomplete programming: Research is beginning to suggest that the brain needs to be 'programmed' in much the same way as a computer. It is suggested that this 'programming' must take place very early in life and involve all of the various forms of information processing. If a child does not have enough opportunity to practice processing a certain type of information at an early age, the brain may always struggle with that type of processing. For example, if you had a lot of ear infections as a baby or young child and often couldn't hear very well, your brain may always have difficulty processing information that you hear.



'Well, now that you know some of the possible causes of a learning disability, you can start interviewing 'witnesses' in your life to help uncover a possible cause for your learning disability.'


'But why would you really care about the cause of your learning disability? Well, maybe you are just curious (I know I am). But there is a more important reason. When you are older you may have children of your own. If you have a pretty good idea about how your learning disability developed, you may be able to predict whether or not your children may also have learning disabilities.'


'For example, if you are pretty sure that heredity is the cause of your learning disability, then there is a pretty good chance that you could pass your processing difficulty along to your children. On the other hand, if your learning disability is caused by an accident or birth trauma, then there is less of a chance that your children will also have learning disabilities.'


Review Questions:


1. What are some 'traumas' that can cause learning disabilities?



2. True or false: A doctor can tell you why you have a learning disability.



3. How could eating paint chips cause a learning disability?



4. Are all LD students born with their learning disabilities?



5. Why do you think it might be good to know the cause of your learning disability?



6. If you have children, do you think that they will have a learning disability? Why or why not?


return to Table of Contents



Return to the LDinfo Web Site to find out about any of the following topics (and more):

Learning disabilities - what is a learning disability (LD or SLD)?

Dyslexia: Dyslexia is a reading disability or reading disorder

Dysgraphia Dysgraphia is a writing disability or disorder

Dyscalculia Dyscalculia is a math disability or disorder

What is an attention deficit disorder (ADD, AD/HD, ADHD)?

Gifted LD: Can a student be gifted and LD?

Emotional/Behavioral issues and LD: Do LD students experience behavior problems or depression?

Section 504: What is a Section 504 plan?

What is special education?

What is processing?

What is a severe discrepancy?

What is a nonverbal learning disability (nonverbal LD or NLD)?

What is a central auditory processing disorder (CAPD)?

What is IDEA?

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Uncovering the Mysteries of your Learning Disability

Order printed copies of this manual

  • Chapter 2 - What Causes Learning Disabilities?
  • Chapter 3 - Discrepancy = Underachievement 
  • Chapter 4 - Processing: The Sensory Channels
  • Chapter 5 - Processing: The Cognitive Channels
  • Chapter 6 - Processing: Sensory + Cognitive
  • Chapter 13 - Becomming an Effective Self-Advocate


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