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Learning disabilities, delayed developmental skills

Author: Mariann Fegyó, Special education teacher for children with intellectual disability (feeble-mindedness, oligofrenie), somatic movement educator, TSMT therapist and mentor

Instructor at TSMT-HRG College

To view the mechanism of action of TSMT and HRG therapies in children with learning difficulties, click here!

A few words about learning disabilities:

Nowadays, the number of children with delayed motor and/or speech development since an early stage of life, is increasing, the consequences of which can be traced back to preschool and school age in the ever-increasing levels of performance. These delays will be reflected in difficulties with school-readiness and successful schooling.

Researchers have tried to define the phenomenon of learning disabilities from a variety of approaches. As they can be manifested in numerous forms, the problem can be approached from various aspects. Learning disabilities can be classified from pedagogical point of view, based on complexity or severity. According to the psychological approach, developmental delays are caused by disorders of the cognitive functions. Neuropsychology is searching for the underlying deficiencies of brain processes that cause the problem. The best definition was formulated by Kamilla Sarkady and Márta Zsoldos, who give the most accurate summary of the problem:

“Learning disorder is defined as a performance which is significantly lower than expected based on intelligence levels, which often results from a neurological deficit or dysfunction with a specific set of cognitive symptoms."

These developmental delays fundamentally make it difficult for the child to learn to read and write and/or to master mathematics at school. Performance failures often lead to secondary neurotisation. "Learning disorder develops in the earliest period and its symptoms can also be found in adulthood.” (Dr. Sarkady – Dr. Zsoldos) In other words, learning disorders can be traced back to several causes: besides the genetic factors, environmental harm and neurodevelopmental disorders, researchers also point out the impact of sedentary lifestyle and excessive use of digital devices on the development of learning disabilities.

There is a significant difference between the expected and the actual performance based on the child’s abilities in the field of writing, reading, counting; the cognitive functions like sensations, perceptions, attention, memory, thinking all work atypically. The above mentioned dysfunctions are often associated with attitude and behavioural problems (difficulty in regulating behaviour, emotional insecurity, excessive motor activity), as secondary symptoms.

What symptoms can help parents and professionals prevent or treat developmental problems?

Although the diagnosis of learning disabilities can be applied to school-age children who find it difficult to master cultural techniques with the majority of pedagogical techniques, the most significant signs can be clearly recognized as early as in the kindergarten. These may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The child is having difficulty concentrating, or is easily distracted
  • Has more difficulty than others tolerating monotony, is not motivated to do tasks, is reluctant to participate in group sessions
  • The child’s movement is disordered, uncoordinated, often characterized by loss of balance or unsteadiness
  • He has difficulty with awareness of his body and limbs in the surrounding space, uncertain in distinguishing between right and left
  • The child is reluctant to participate in drawing activities, has a very stiff and static pencil grip and draws on paper with inadequate torque
  • Has weak sense of rhythm, unable to coordinate movement and speech
  • Has difficulty paying attention to the story he is reading, can’t tell what the story was about, or remembers irrelevant details
  • Learning poems is a challenge for him, finds it hard to hear or understand its words correctly
  • Has difficulty with understanding verbal instructions
  • Cannot arrange things in the right order; has difficulty with recognizing and memorizing succession
  • Has trouble with building something according to a pattern, it is hard for him to recognise shapes, cannot imitate the movements shown to him.

Why is it important to recognise the problem as early as possible?

The symptoms are often due to the underdeveloped regulatory functions of the subcortical structures of the nervous system, which causes inefficient processing of sensory information. Our many years of experience show that since the sensitive stage of sensorimotor functions occurs at preschool age, the delays and deficiencies recognized in the early stage of life can be effectively influenced with the right therapeutic procedure. With sensorimotor development the symptoms can be reduced, and the method helps prevent escalation of the problem. In the first two years of elementary school, with our developmental method a noticeable positive change can be induced in the field of learning and attentional functions as well. However, at later ages, these therapies become much less effective as neuroplasticity decreases with age and the development of the subcortical functions slows significantly.

How can TSMT and HRG help?

The maturation process of the central nervous system and of the motor development support cognitive development in close cooperation with each other. Motor development has a significant role in the prevention and therapy of learning disorders, and is a perfect method to affect the nervous system.

The Longikid© test is used to map the quality of the subcortical integration function of the nervous system. The dysfunction of the subcortical integration is indicated by states when the archaic reflexes can be largely triggered, the adjustment reactions and equilibrium responses are unsteady, the child has a poor standing balance and uses abnormal reactions or involuntary movements (dyskinesias). If there is significant delay in these areas, it indicates that the development of higher cortical function may also be affected. The normalization of subcortical regulation is therefore essential for their successful development. During the motor examination we can observe the quality of the child’s motor coordination, the result of which is the alignment of gross and fine motor movements and the optimal alignment of the spatial and temporal dynamic characteristics. This is a basic prerequisite for all activities involving movement. During the tasks, we can observe the children’s spatial orientation, body schema, hand and foot movements coordination, dynamic sense of balance, sense of rhythm and seriality. With the help of cognitive screening tasks we can detect the deficiencies in the field of sensation, perception, memory and thinking. If necessary, we recommend involvement of other professionals as well in order to accurately reveal the problem detected. During the examination, we simultaneously get an idea of ​​the child’s attention, task awareness, cooperation skills, and the functioning of his inhibitory functions. Based on the analysis of the achievements in each field and the summary of the screening results, we propose to participate either in the individual or in the small group TSMT sessions.

The task of the targeted sensorimotor training (TSMT) matures and structures the nervous system during the development of the gross and fine motor skills. In the therapy of children with learning disorder, our main task is to develop the motor automatisms, to align speech-movement coordination, and to practice tasks that help activate symmetrical operation of the two halves of the body. By mastering the 2-4-8 beat pattern coordinated tasks, seriality skills of the children develop during the trainings. Fine motor skills are developed with the help of tools given to the children and used during the exercises.

In case of sensory processing disorders, the stimulation of the vestibular system and the alignment of the various modalities play a key role. In the case of a cooperating child who can be trained in consultation with a cognitive therapy professional, cognitive tasks corresponding to the type of problem are also included in the series of movements. Our aim is to normalize the maturation processes of the nervous system, to establish cooperation, to reduce the disturbing symptoms, to achieve the age-appropriate motor, mental, cognitive and social performances in the child, as well as to catch up. In summary, our goal is to promote school-readiness and successful schooling.


·         Éva Gyarmathy: Learning disabilities syndrome in the literature, New Pedagogy Review, October, 1998.

·         Éva Gyarmathy: Identification and treatment of learning disabilities in the kindergarten and school, New Pedagogical Review November 1998.

·         Éva Gyarmathy: What is a specific learning disorder, why has it been spread and how can it be effectively treated?


·         Katalin Lakatos: Screening poor school readiness using the Developmental status and motor skills assessment test, New Pedagogical Review, March.

·         Katalin Lakatos: Individual therapy for organically disabled children with targeted sensorimotor trainings / TSMT I/ Course textbook.