Muscular dystrophy is an umbrella term used to describe a class of genetic disorders characterized by progressive muscle weakness. Some types of muscular dystrophy can also be associated with learning disabilities or cognitive problems.

What are learning disabilities?

Learning disabilities are neurological processing problems, which make it more difficult to acquire skills or knowledge, and learn to read and write, or do math. They can also interfere with organizational skills, time management, abstract reasoning, memory, and attention span. Some people with learning disabilities have a difficult time interacting with others and building relationships.

Causes of learning disabilities in muscular dystrophy

The cause of learning disabilities associated with muscular dystrophy is not well understood. It is thought that the same mutations that cause muscle weakness may also interfere with normal brain function. Some of the proteins that are faulty in muscular dystrophy patients also have important functions in the brain. Structural proteins are responsible for regulating many of the cell-to-cell interactions, which are vital for normal brain function.

Diagnosis of learning disabilities

Children with muscular dystrophy should undergo standard testing with a developmental or pediatric neuropsychologist to determine whether they have learning disabilities. Outside of these evaluations, teachers and caregivers are usually the first to notice when a student is struggling, either mentally, developmentally, or socially, and can recommend that tests be performed.

Management of learning disabilities

While there is no cure for specific learning disorders, many strategies can help students improve their math, reading, and writing skills. A learning specialist can help determine the most effective strategies for a particular student. This may mean using repetition or memorization, or using a picture to illustrate a word. Learning to convert one sort of problem into another format may help some students (such as changing a math problem into a word problem, or vice versa). In multimodal learning, students use their other senses (such as touch, taste, and smell) to help with the learning process.

Students may also need:

  • an individualized education plan (IEP) or 504 education plan
  • adaptive or assistive technologies in the classroom, such as keyboards for writing
  • additional time to take tests and exams
  • special considerations about tardiness, absences, shortened school days, and missed class work and homework due to physical therapy sessions
  • tutoring or additional time to turn in assignments

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Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Emily holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated with a Masters in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Central Arkansas. Emily is passionate about science communication, and, in her free time, writes and illustrates children’s stories.
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Emily holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated with a Masters in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Central Arkansas. Emily is passionate about science communication, and, in her free time, writes and illustrates children’s stories.
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