Learning And Attention Issues – Do We Understand Them?

It is the year 2020 and we humans still do not understand what learning and attention problems are. Don’t believe me? Then read on.

A recent study at WITS University that included more than 100 primary school teachers from either private or government schools in Johannesburg revealed that most of them still believe that diet is the leading causal effect for ADHD. While some of them do acknowledge the physiological and neurological basis of the disorder, they perceive emotional upset, poor diet, inadequate parenting, and other barriers to learning as additional factors that cause ADHD.

How sad is that?

The answer is that it is very sad because teachers are ideally positioned to identify and refer these learners for further assessment. But let me make your blood boil some more. These very same teachers prefer that children with ADHD are put on medication since it makes these children more manageable. When you keep in mind that these very same teachers blame diet as the main cause for ADHD, one cannot help but feel totally deflated at the complete lack of understanding of this and other learning disorders.

Learning and attention issues are brain-based difficulties in reading, writing, math, organisation, focus, listening comprehension, social skills, motor skills, or a combination of these. Learning and attention issues are not the result of low intelligence, poor vision or hearing, or lack of access to quality instruction or because of a poor diet.

Other examples of learning disabilities and attention issues include poor executive functioning, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia. Dyslexia and dysgraphia involve difficulties with the reading and writing of language while dyscalculia has to do with difficulties to figure out how numbers work.

How Are Learning Disorders Diagnosed?

There is no blood test or another quick way to tell if a child has a learning or attention issue. Accurate diagnosis involves comprehensive assessment protocols that look at many kinds of behaviours and skills. This is really important since many children have more than one learning or attention issue. For example, researchers have found that dyslexia and dyscalculia co-occur in 30% to 70% of children who have either disorder. Studies also indicate as many as 45% of children with ADHD also have a learning disability.

MYTHS About Learning and Attention Issues

Children can grow out of learning disabilities


Learning and attention issues are lifelong conditions involving differences in brain structure and function. Symptoms may change over time, and the right support helps address weaknesses. But age doesn’t make these issues “go away.”


Any child can do well in school if he or she tries hard enough


Children with learning and attention issues are as smart as their typically developing peers, and many have average or above-average intelligence. There are many children who are gifted and have learning disabilities. Many schools refer to these children as “twice-exceptional.”


Signs of Learning and Attention Issues

  • Reads at a lower level than peers
  • Has a hard time “getting” math concepts
  • Has bad handwriting
  • Always loses their homework
  • Can’t sit still
  • Doesn’t want to go to school
  • Has a hard time making friends

The Bottom Line?

Learning disorders are real, they hurt those who are inflicted by it especially when we ignore its existence. The best approach to helping children with these disorders is to get everybody – professionals, teachers, and parents involved and face the problems together.

Deon Visser

Biolink Attention Training Head Office