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Children with learning disorders oftentimes receive feedback that the ways in which they see the world are different and wrong. Thus, they are at higher risk for developing psychopathology. A wide body of research supports that children with learning disorders are more likely than peers without learning disorders to develop anxiety and depression. They are at higher risk of developing inadequate coping strategies as well as low self-concept. Co-occurring ADHD and social problems are associated with even poorer psychosocial outcomes.

Many people assume that psychopathology is caused by the challenges faced by children with learning disorders in their classrooms each day. However, it is my impression that these symptoms of anxiety and depression are central to, rather than byproducts of, learning disorders. In fact, a recent article that I published in the peer-reviewed journal Developmental Science called “Amygdala sub-regional functional connectivity predicts anxiety in children with reading disorder” suggests that there is a common circuit in the brain that underlies both reading difficulty and anxiety. (You can learn more about that here.) Others have shown similar findings in studies of math and writing problems, as well as of depressive symptomatology.

Since cognitive and emotional systems are inextricably linked in the brain, learning disorders require both psychological evaluation and treatment. In treatment, the student realizes that I understand how he or she sees the world. This experience helps the student feel accepted and valued.