What does it feel like to be gifted, but have a learning disability? Often, in a single word, it feels frustrating. For many children and adults, a learning disability can occur in reading, writing, mathematics, speaking, or listening. Having a learning disability means that the struggle with learning that an individual experiences is not due to limited intellectual ability. It also means that there are no social, emotional, environmental, or sensory (physical and medical) obstacles preventing them from achieving their learning potential. Individuals with LD have unique learning profiles, and they may struggle in some area(s) of skill development, but perform well, or even excel in others. Imagine the frustration that a student might have if he or she is exceptionally gifted in a particular area such as math, reading, writing, art, or music, but shows significant weakness in other areas of learning. What happens when a student is highly gifted and has extraordinary knowledge along with the accelerated capacity to learn across many areas of content while having pronounced areas of weakness in others, such as reading, spelling, writing, or math computation? Frustration.
With gifted LD students, compensation strategies are quite useful. Learning disabilities are generally somewhat permanent, so, for example, a person who is a poor speller will always need to check for errors in spelling before submitting a final written piece of work. Using a computer, as most people do these days, and using a spell checker is a virtual necessity. The student that has difficulty memorizing mathematics facts or formulas should use a calculator to assure accuracy. It is recommended that students who have difficulty with handwriting will do much better using a smart phone, tablet, or computer to record ideas, make lists, or write notes, or papers. In most instances, remediating weaknesses, which may make the student more proficient, is recommended for gifted students.
Helping students to find the strategies to help to compensate for the learning challenges they are experiencing is vitally important. Often professionals who specialize in learning disabilities can be a bridge to connect the student with strategies that are the most relevant to his or her needs. Determining a student’s learning strengths and challenges and then connecting him or her to strategies that take advantage of strengths and helping him or her to develop the reflex of regularly using those strategies is the job of a learning specialist.