Children may be plagued by a number of conditions that come under the heading of learning disabilities, as well as by various problems that can appear to be learning disabilities. Learning disabilities not only make life difficult for children in the classroom and also bring on the child as he or she grows all of the problems associated with the lack of an education, but they also shape and distort the child's social abilities and ability to acquire a variety of concepts we all possess that help us relate to ourselves, other people, and the world itself. Learning disabilities most often manifest themselves in the classroom and emerge as the child is expected to learn and develop at the same pace as others in his or her age group, whereas instead he or she shows the inability to learn, inattentiveness, difficulty in judging concepts of time, poor language development, and so forth. The child may also show signs of hyperactivity, poor memory, and distorted perception.
While it is true that most learning disabilities emerge in the school setting, it is also true that our schools often miss the signs and fail to cope with the problems raised by learning disabilities. Ungerleider (1985) points this out with reference to her story of one student and how he was failed by our schools. Her narrative also points to the fact that learning disabilities need not be permanent and need not be debilitating if they are diagnosed and adequately treated:
Reading, Writing, and Rage shows beyond a doubt that Tony Petri had many problems--perceptual problems, possible neurological problems, visual problems, allergy problems, family problems. However, the extent of each of these, considered in isolation, does not justify the utter totality of his school failure (Ungerleider, 1985, 205).
Ungerleider finds that even as this child was diagnosed and as treatment was created for him, his own rage undermined any possible solution:
Tony Petri fai...