Why We Call Them Learning and Attention Issues

By The Understood Team

 

Group of young children with balloons looking up at the sky | Why We Call Them Learning and Attention Issues

At a Glance

  • The term “learning and attention issues” covers a wide range of challenges.
  • Schools, medical professionals and parents use many different terms for learning and attention issues.
  • Having learning and attention issues doesn’t mean someone isn’t intelligent.

You may be wondering what we mean when we use the term “learning and attention issues.” Maybe you’ve heard other terms, like “learning disabilities,” and are confused. Are learning and attention issues the same thing or something different? Here we explain what learning and attention issues are, what they are not, and why we call them that.

What are learning and attention issues?

The term “learning and attention issues” covers a wide range of challenges kids may face in school, at home and in the community. It includes all children who are struggling—whether their issues have been formally identified or not.

Learning and attention issues are brain-based difficulties. They often run in families. Roughly 20 percent of children have learning and attention issues.

Kids with learning and attention issues could be struggling in different ways and to varying degrees. They may have trouble with reading, writing, math, organization, concentration,, social skills, motor skills or a combination of these.

What are they not?

Learning and attention issues are not the result of where or how a child grows up. They’re also not just “kids being lazy.” Having these issues doesn’t mean a child isn’t intelligent. In fact, kids with learning and attention issues are just as smart as their peers.

Sometimes people mix up learning and attention issues with other conditions. For instance, some people equate learning and attention issues with intellectual disabilities, even though they’re not the same thing. You might also hear people attribute learning and attention issues to poor vision or hearing. It’s true that some learning and attention issues may result from how the brain processes sights and sounds. But this isn’t the same as having poor eyesight or hearing.

Why do we use the term “learning and attention issues”?

We’ve chosen to use the term “learning and attention issues” to be inclusive. Some kids are struggling in school but haven’t been formally identified with a disability or disorder.

For example, one child may struggle with reading while another struggles with reading andhas been formally identified as having dyslexia. Our resources can help the parents of both of these children.

Why not stick with terms like “disability” or “disorder”?

Terms like “disability” and “disorder” are necessary to open doors to important services and supports for kids with learning and attention issues. But some parents aren’t comfortable with these legal and medical terms. We want to help these parents recognize and understand their child’s issues—and get their child on a path to success withoutconcern over labels or stigma.

Is Understood for all parents?

We created Understood specifically for parents of children with learning and attention issues.  and ADHD (which affects roughly one-third of kids with learning disabilities) are examples of common learning and attention issues.

Understood may be helpful for parents whose children struggle because of autism spectrum disorders, mental health issues or intellectual disabilities. But it’s not specifically geared to meet their needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Not everyone uses the same terms to talk about learning and attention issues.
  • Kids with learning and attention issues are just as smart as their peers.
  • Understanding your child’s issues is key to getting her on a path to success.

About the Author

Understood Team Graphic

The Understood Team is composed of writers, editors and community moderators, many of whom have children with learning and attention issues.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Sheldon Horowitz

Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D., is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.