Fast Facts

About Learning Disabilities

What Are Learning Disabilities?

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 do mathematical calculations.

Learning Disabilities are a group of varying disorders that have a negative impact on learning. Typically there is difficulty processing information in the visual, auditory, or haptic sensory channels of communication.

The most prevalent Learning Disability is in the area of reading, known as Dyslexia. As many as 85% of students with Learning Disabilities have Dyslexia.

Learning Disabilities often run in families.

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.

Are All Learning Disabilities the Same?

No. Learning Disabilities affect every person differently and they present differently at various stages of development. One child might have difficulty learning to read and spell, while another might have trouble understanding math concepts. Learning Disabilities range from mild to severe and it is not uncommon to have more than one learning disability.

Are Learning Disabilities the Same as ADHD?

No. A Learning Disability is not the same as ADHD although they share common features, such as difficulties with concentration, memory, and organizational skills. Many children with Learning Disabilities, however, also have concomitant ADHD. Often Learning Disabilities are frequently confused with ADHD and mistaken as laziness or disorders of emotion and behavior.

Are Learning Disabilities the Same as Intellectual Disabilities?

No. Children with Learning Disabilities have average to above-average intelligence. They have a peak and valley profile where there are areas of extreme weaknesses as well as areas of extreme strengths. There are uneven areas of ability, "a weakness within a sea of strengths." Despite good intellectual ability, these children struggle to acquire skills that impact school performance.

What Are the Causes of Learning Disabilities?

Experts are not exactly sure of the cause of Learning Disabilities. Often, there is no apparent cause, but we do know that the architecture of the brain is structurally different. Learning Disabilities may be due to heredity, problems during pregnancy and birth, or incidents after birth, such as head injuries, poor nutrition, and exposure to toxins.

Can a Child Outgrow a Learning Disability?

No. A Learning Disability is a lifelong disorder and there is no "cure". If diagnosed early and proper treatment given, children with learning disabilities can become successful learners and have a bright and productive future.

How Common Are Learning Disabilities?

Very Common. Fifteen percent of the U.S. population, or 1 in 7 Americans, has some type of Learning Disability. Currently 2.4 million students (ages 6-21) are diagnosed with Learning Disabilities and receive special education services in school, representing 41% of all students receiving special education. Students with Learning Disabilities represent the largest group served by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), our nation's special education law.

What Are the Warning Signs of Learning Disabilities?

The hallmark sign of a Learning Disability is the distinct discrepancy between a child's intellectual potential and academic achievement. There is an unexplained gap between a child's level of expected achievement and his/her performance. This is why Learning Disabilities are referred to as "a hidden handicap." Although a child has good intellectual ability, he/she struggles with learning in school. Acquiring basic skills in reading, math, writing, and spelling are the greatest areas of difficulty.

What Are the Symptoms of Learning Disabilities?

The symptoms are a diverse set of characteristics which affect development and achievement, some of which can be found in all children at some time during their development. However, a child with a Learning Disability has a cluster of these symptoms which do not disappear as the child ages.

Most Frequently Displayed Symptoms:

  • Short attention span
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Inability to discriminate between/among letters, numbers, or sounds
  • Poor reading and writing ability
  • Poor eye-hand coordination; poorly coordinated
  • Difficulties with sequencing
  • Disorganization and other sensory difficulties

Other Characteristics That May Exist:

    • Inconsistency in performance
    • Distractible, restless, impulsive
    • Says one thing, means another
    • Difficulty listening and remembering
    • Difficulty telling time and knowing right from left
    • Difficulty sounding out words
    • Reverses letters
    • Places letters in incorrect sequence
    • Difficulty understanding words or concepts
    • Delayed speech development; immature speech

What Are the Types of Learning Disabilities?

Learning Disabilities is an umbrella term describing many other, more specific learning disabilities which include dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, dysphasia/aphasia, auditory and visual processing disorders, and nonverbal learning disabilities.

Scroll to Top