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Return to Promise Program Helps Children with Learning Disabilities Overview

More on Promise Program Helps Children with Learning Disabilities

Promise Program Helps Children with Learning Disabilities

NEW YORK (Jun 1, 2012)

Untreated learning disabilities (LD) significantly interfere with a child's ability to learn and achieve in school. This can have a pervasive impact on many areas of functioning, and is associated with high rates of school drop out, unemployment, poor self-esteem, and secondary psychiatric difficulties including behavioral problems, depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Clinicians are hoping to change this fate with the Promise Program.

illustration of room at The Center for Autism and the Developing Brain

The program in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), and NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, provides an educational path for underserved children who struggle with learning disabilities. It offers comprehensive, state-of-the-art neuropsychological evaluations that otherwise would be unobtainable for this population. These evaluations provide accurate diagnoses and help assure that appropriate educational interventions and services are given to each child. Promise Program clinicians also work closely with Advocates for Children when legal help is necessary.

Launched on July 1, 2011, 60 children in Harlem, Washington Heights, and Bronx neighborhoods are expected to be enrolled in the Promise Program this year. Already at full capacity, organizers are seeking additional funding so that the Program can benefit an even larger number.

"Learning disabilities affect 1 in 10 school-age children. Parents are often the first to notice that something is wrong, but teachers also play a key role in identifying a child in need of help early on," says Dr. Molly Algermissen, Ph.D., Clinical Director of the Promise Program.

Learning disabilities look different at each developmental stage. Some signs for parents and teachers to look for are:

Preschool age:

  • Delayed speech
  • Pronunciation problems
  • Difficulty learning numbers, the alphabet, days of the week

Kindergarten - 4th grade:

  • Slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
  • Confusion of basic words (e.g., run, eat)
  • Consistent reading and spelling errors

5th - 8th grade:

  • Reverses letter sequences (e.g., soiled/solid, left/felt)
  • Slow to learn prefixes, suffixes, root words, and other spelling strategies
  • Avoids reading aloud

High School:

  • Frequently spells the same word differently in the same writing assignment
  • Avoids reading and writing tasks
  • Either pays too little attention to details or focuses on them too much

"Early identification is only one step in a multi-layered approach to treating learning disabilities," says Lou Baptista, M.D., Director of Clinical Services in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital. "Research is critical to increasing understanding of the neurological basis of LD and developing more effective treatments, and we at Columbia Psychiatry and NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital are firmly committed to this effort."

"Providing access to care in an environment that integrates innovative research with core clinical services and arms parents with the necessary tools to advocate for their families is our number one priority," says Rafael Lantigua, M.D., Dean's Special Advisor to Community Health Affairs at CUMC. "Our communities deserve no less."

The Promise Program is funded by the PROMISE PROJECT, a tax-exempt, nonprofit partner project of the Fund for the City of New York that was founded by Dana Buchman. For more about PROMISE PROJECT, go to promise-project.org.

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