What causes learning disabilities?
A: The causes of learning disabilities are complex and not well understood.
In fact, the causes of learning disabilities may be as diverse as the types of learning disabilities. Students may have problems with early-, intermediate-, or advanced reading; early- intermediate-, or advanced-computation; early-, intermediate-, or advanced-written expression; recall of simple or related concepts; attending to relevant versus irrelevant aspects of lessons or activities; and so forth. Those problems may be the result of many different causes.
Recent research has discovered differences in the brain structure and functioning of readers with learning disabilities but this is only a beginning. Learning disabilities may be caused by hereditary, teratogenic (e.g., alcohol, lead, cocaine), medical (e.g., premature birth, diabetes, meningitis), and environmental (e.g., malnutrition, poor prenatal healthcare) factors.
Researchers seeking to base instruction on the cause of an individual’s learning disability have so far not been successful. Apparently, rather than determining the cause of a student’s problems, it is more important to determine the individual’s unique educational needs and design instruction that has the best chance of helping him or her to meet those needs.