Lisa Kaaki, [email protected]
Publication Date: 
Wed, 2010-06-30 15:27

“In Saudi Arabia, we don’t have any valid standardized tool in Arabic that we can use to identify individuals with learning disabilities. However, based on the international prevalence rate, we expect to have a minimum of 215,000 students in our school systems struggling with LD,” says Dr. Saja Jamjoom, Program Manager for the Learning Disabilities Program at the Prince Salman Center for Disability Research based in Riyadh.
The biggest problem is that mothers and schoolteachers know very little about learning disabilities. LD should not be confused with other disabilities such as mental retardation, autism, deafness, and behavioral disorders since none of these conditions are learning disabilities. Moreover, Attention Deficit Disorders often appear at the same time, but the two disorders are not the same.
It is very important to diagnose a learning disability as early as possible so that it does not affect a child’s academic achievement. With the proper support, children with learning disabilities can succeed in their studies and have good careers. Many famous people like Albert Einstein, for example, suffered from LD but that did not prevent them from being successful.
A learning disability is a neurological disorder that does not affect intelligence. In fact, children with LD are as smart as or even smarter than their peers. Learning disorders are simply caused by a difference in the brain that affects how information is received, processed or communicated. Children with LD see, hear and understand things differently and as a result they may have difficulty reading, writing, and spelling, reasoning and remembering.
A language based disability in which a person has trouble understanding written words. It is also referred to as a reading disorder.
A mathematical disability in which a person has a difficult time solving arithmetic problems and grasping math concepts.
A writing disability in which a person finds it hard to form letters or write within a defined space.
sensory disabilities in which a person has difficulty understanding language despite normal hearing and vision.
A neurological disorder which originates in the right hemisphere of the brain, causing problems with visual-spatial, intuitive, organizational and evaluative functions.
Difficulty with basic reading and language skills are the most common learning disabilities. As many as 80 percent of students with learning disabilities have reading problems. Incidentally, learning disabilities often run in families.
“The Ministry of Education established, as of the year 2009, 1,268 programs within schools to serve students who have been diagnosed with LD. In addition, 13 after school centers that cater to LD students. The ministry is opening more programs every year, but the need is great. Currently the 1,268 available programs are serving only 4.5 percent of schools,” says Jamjoom.
In an effort to raise the awareness and contribute to the field of learning disabilities, Prince Salman Center for Disability Research has been involved in several projects.
In 2009, the center established the first Academic Assistance Unit in collaboration with Landmark College in the US at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh. “This Unit is the first unit in the region that provides support services for students with LD at the higher education level,” says Jamjoom.
“Currently, the Prince Salman Center is providing in-school training workshops for teachers to introduce learning disabilities and provide them with strategies they can use to recognize and teach students with LD. The center is also collaborating with the Center for Child Evaluation and Teaching in Kuwait and with local and international experts to develop the first standardized learning disability assessment tool in Arabic. The tool is built on the best scientific research practices and involves a team of experts with different backgrounds. The tool resulting from this national project is expected to be ready for use in 2014.”
Early intervention and support can really make a difference in giving your child the best chance for success. As soon as you are aware of some of the most common signs of learning disorders you will be able to catch the problem early and focus on how best to support your child.
The process of diagnosing a learning disorder can be difficult. Start with your child’s school and if they are unable to help you, you can go to a psychologist or contact the Prince Salman Center for Disability Research.
Whether or not your child is suffering from a learning disability, you should always remember that the way you behave and what you do will have the most impact on your child’s future. A positive attitude might not solve the problem, but it can give your child the hope and confidence to overcome his/her learning problems and lead a successful life. You should also do your own research and become your own expert so you can provide your child with the best tools to help him learn. Focus your energy on learning what works and implementing it in your child’s life the best way you can. Most importantly, however, provide your child with emotional, educational and moral support.
For more information, contact the Prince Salman Center for Disability Research at (01)488-4401 or visit their website at    

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