Many of the causes of Specific Learning Disabilities remain a mystery, but research continues to uncover new answers. We do know that most SLD develop before birth while the brain is forming. During pregnancy, many things can negatively affect the developing brain. Existing evidence indicates a diverse set of causes related to difficulties in bringing together information from various parts of the brain.
Possible causes of SLD can include: genetic factors; maternal use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy; complications during pregnancy such as lack of oxygen and premature birth; certain types of infections; and exposures to environmental toxins such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. Poisoning during childhood can also result in a disability.
Up to 50% of Specific Learning Disabilities can be explained on familial or genetic grounds. Some theories suggest that SLD may come from a specific area of the brain, but new research is showing that it has more to do with how areas of the brain communicate with each other.
Recent research on the adverse effects of both untested and known environmental toxins is alarming. There is proof of a link between environmental toxins and Specific Learning Disabilities. Environmental toxins can have critical effects on the endocrine system. The unborn and children are especially vulnerable and highly susceptible. These toxins include such elements and compounds as lead, mercury, certain pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs ). There is sound scientific evidence indicating that there is a much stronger link between toxic exposures in the environment and learning problems than ever previously realized. The hypothesis is that many more causes are probably lurking among the tens of thousands of untested new chemicals. A report given at the Annual Conference of the Learning Disabilities Association of America, Inc., by Phillip Landrigan, a leading scientist and Chairman of Community Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, stated that some incidences of Specific Learning Disabilities could be prevented if researchers only knew more about the environmental factors that cause them.
More and more scientists, researchers, and informed citizens are seeing a connection between the rise in learning and other developmental disabilities and the increasing danger surrounding us in the form of untested environmental toxic exposure. Developing fetuses and children are highly susceptible to the dangers of environmental toxins.