A learning disability is a neurological disorder that affects
one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding
or in using spoken or written language. The disability may manifest
itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write,
spell or to do mathematical calculations.
Every individual with a learning disability is unique and shows
a different combination and degree of difficulties. A common characteristic
among people with learning disabilities is uneven areas of ability,
“a weakness within a sea of strengths.” For instance,
a child with dyslexia who struggles with reading, writing and spelling
may be very capable in math and science.
Learning disabilities should not be confused with learning problems
which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps;
of mental retardation; of emotional disturbance; or of environmental,
cultural or economic disadvantages.
Generally speaking, people with learning disabilities are of average
or above average intelligence. There often appears to be a gap between
the individual’s potential and actual achievement. This is
why learning disabilities are referred to as “hidden disabilities:”
the person looks perfectly “normal” and seems to be
a very bright and intelligent person, yet may be unable to demonstrate
the skill level expected from someone of a similar age.
A learning disability cannot be cured or fixed; it is a lifelong
challenge. However, with appropriate support and intervention, people
with learning disabilities can achieve success in school, at work,
in relationships, and in the community.
In Federal law, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA), the term is “specific learning disability,”
one of 13 categories of disability under that law.
“Learning Disabilities” is an “umbrella”
term describing a number of other, more specific learning disabilities,
such as dyslexia and dysgraphia. Find the signs and symptoms of
each, plus strategies to help:
A language and reading disability
Problems with arithmetic and math concepts
A writing disorder resulting in illegibility
Dyspraxia (Sensory Integration Disorder)
Problems with motor coordination
Central Auditory Processing Disorder
Difficulty processing and remembering language-related tasks
Non-Verbal Learning Disorders
Trouble with nonverbal cues, e.g., body language; poor coordination,
Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit
Reverses letters; cannot copy accurately; eyes hurt and itch; loses
place; struggles with cutting
Language Disorders (Aphasia/Dysphasia)
Trouble understanding spoken language; poor reading comprehension