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Specific Learning Disabilities and Heredity

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 9/11/2012

Have you ever been told you act just like your father or mother? This is due to genetics. Genetics can also affect the way students learn. Read on to learn about theories that suggest why heredity may play a role in the development of learning disabilities.

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    Genetic Factors of Specific Learning Disabilities

    Have you ever worked with a student and wondered if their disability runs in their family? In years of teaching I have learned at IEP meetings that students’ parents also had similar problems when they were in school. Why is this? Learning disabilities may be inherited by children, just like genetic disorders. Learning disabilities are caused by heredity, problems during pregnancy/childbirth, or problems after childbirth. Let’s take a look at how genetic factors of specific learning disabilities can be passed on to children.

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    Different Theories

    There may possibly be a genetic link that causes people in families to have learning disabilities. Children may not necessarily have the same disability as their parents, but may inherit a similar disability. For example, a parent may have dyslexia, and the child may have a visual processing difficulty. Learning-disabilities.org suggests that a subtle brain dysfunction may actually be what is inherited which in turn causes the learning disability.

    There are many different theories of learning. In looking at these different theories, some of them do suggest that learning disabilities can be caused by heredity. The following theories have been researched on www.learning-theories.com.

    The first theory is the cognitive theory. This theory states that the mind is like a computer. This theory also states that processes for thinking, memory, problem solving, and knowing are all affected by the brain’s processor. In using this theory, cognitive theorists would state that those with learning disabilities have malfunctioning processor. Genetically, they received a malfunctioning processor from their parents, who also have a processor that does not function properly.

    Vygotsky’s theory of social development states that learning develops from the interaction with people and the interaction within the mind of the person. Using this theory, learning disabilities would be genetic because the person’s mind had developed through others. If a child has a parent with a learning disability, then they are essentially “taught” that disability because that is all their parents know.

    Another theory of learning that could be applied to the fact that learning disabilities are hereditary is the behavioral learning theory. This theory states that all people start off with a blank slate and learn from their environment. Based on this theory, if children have parents with learning disabilities, then they will essentially inherit the disability as well, they will essentially “learn” the disability.

    There are other learning theories, but the three that I mentioned are the most relevant to heredity and learning disabilities.

    It needs to be noted that not all learning disabilities get passed on to children. A parent may have a learning disability and their child may not. These are just theories, but it is very common for learning disabilities to be passed on genetically to offspring. There are other causes of learning disabilities, but genetics seems to be the most talked about cause. There is no single piece of evidence that points to learning disabilities being caused by heredity, but the research suggests that it is a main factor in learning disabilities in children.

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    Links to Related Articles

    http://www.brighthubeducation.com/special-ed-learning-disorders/40368-about-dyseidetic-dyslexia/

    http://www.brighthub.com/education/special/articles/31673.aspx

    http://www.brighthub.com/education/special/articles/48302.aspx