Learning disabilities are neurologically-based processing problems. These processing problems can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing and/or math. They can also interfere with higher level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short term memory and attention. It is important to realize that learning disabilities can affect an individual’s life beyond academics and can impact relationships with family, friends and in the workplace.
Difficulties with reading, writing and/or math are identifiable problems during the school years, the signs and symptoms of learning disabilities are most often diagnosed during that time. However, some individuals do not receive an assessment until they are in post-secondary education or adults in the workforce.
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.
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. Learning disabilities are also referred as “hidden disabilities”, because the person looks absolutely normal and appears to be bright and intelligent, 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, but with appropriate support and intervention, people with learning disabilities can achieve success in school, at work, in relationships, and in the community.
“Learning Disabilities” is “umbrella” term describing a number of other, more specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and dysgraphia.
Specific Learning Disabilities
It is a learning disability that affects reading and related language-based processing skills. The severity can differ in each individual but can affect reading fluency; decoding, reading comprehension, recall, writing, spelling, and sometimes speech and can exist along with other related disorders. Dyslexia is sometimes referred to as a Language-Based Learning Disability.
This specific learning disability affects a person’s handwriting ability and fine motor skills. Problems may include illegible handwriting, inconsistent spacing, poor spatial planning on paper, poor spelling, and difficulty composing writing as well as thinking and writing at the same time.
This specific learning disability affects a person’s ability to understand numbers and learn math facts. Individuals with this type of LD may also have poor comprehension of math symbols, may struggle with memorizing and organizing numbers, have difficulty telling time, or have trouble with counting.
This disorder is characterized by difficulty in muscle control, which causes problems with movement and coordination, language and speech, and can affect learning. Although not a learning disability, dyspraxia often exists along with dyslexia, dyscalculia or ADHD.
Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit:
This disorder affects the understanding of information that a person sees, or the ability to draw or copy. A characteristic is seen in people with learning disabilities such as Dysgraphia or Non- verbal LD, it can result in missing subtle differences in shapes or printed letters, losing place frequently, struggles with cutting, holding pencil too tightly, or poor eye/hand coordination.
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD):
Also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder is a hearing problem that affects about 5% of school-aged children. It is a condition that adversely affects how sound that travels unimpeded through the ear is processed or interpreted by the brain. Individuals with APD do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, even when the sounds are loud and clear enough to be heard. They can also find it difficult to tell where sounds are coming from, to make sense of the order of sounds, or to block out competing for background noises.
Language Processing Disorder:
In this type of Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), there is difficulty attaching meaning to sound groups those form words, sentences and stories. While an APD affects the interpretation of all sounds coming into the brain, a Language Processing Disorder (LPD) relates only to the processing of language. LPD can affect expressive language and/or receptive language.
Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities:
This disorder is usually characterized by a significant discrepancy between higher verbal skills and weaker motor, visual-spatial and social skills. Typically, an individual with NLD (or NVLD) has trouble interpreting nonverbal cues like facial expressions or body language and may have poor coordination.
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHA) is a disorder that includes difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior and hyperactivity. Although ADHD is not considered a learning disability, research indicates that from 30-50 percent of children with ADHD also have a specific learning disability and that the two conditions can interact to make learning extremely challenging.
It is inefficiency in the cognitive management systems of the brain that affects a variety of neuropsychological processes such as planning, organization, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space. Although not a learning disability, different patterns of weakness in executive functioning are almost always seen in the learning profiles of individuals who have specific learning disabilities or ADHD.
Three types of memory are important to learning. Working memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory are used in the processing of both verbal and non-verbal information. If there are deficits in any or all of these types of memory, the ability to store and retrieve information required to carry out tasks can be impaired.