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Common Learning Disabilities

What is Learning Disability?

Learning disability is a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities.


Learning disabilities can be categorized either by the type of information processing that is affected or by the specific difficulties caused by a processing deficit. Information processing deficits. Learning disabilities fall into broad categories based on the four stages of information processing used in learning:

  • Input
  • Integration
  • Storage
  • Output

Specific Learning Disabilities

  1. Reading disability (Dyslexia)
    This type of disorder, also known as dyslexia, is quite widespread and is the most common learning disability. In fact, reading disabilities affect 2 to 8 percent of elementary school children. And, of all students with specific learning disabilities, 70%-80% have deficits in reading.

Specific Characteristics:

  • inability to distinguish or separate the sounds in spoken words
  • problem sounding out words
  • trouble with rhyming games
  • trouble understanding or remembering new concepts
  • difficulty comprehending words read
  1. Writing disability (Dysgraphia)
    Writing too, involves several brain areas and functions. The brain networks for vocabulary, grammar, hand movement, and memory must all be in good working order. So, a developmental writing disorder may result from problems in any of these areas.
  2. Arithmetic disorder (Dyscalculia)
    Specific Characteristics:
    has difficulty …
  • recognizing numbers and symbols
  • memorizing facts
  • aligning numbers
  • understanding abstract concepts like place value and fractions
  1. Nonverbal learning disability

Nonverbal learning disabilities often manifest in…

  • Motor clumsiness, poor visual skills, problematic social relationships, difficulty with math, and poor organizational skills.
  • These individuals often have specific strengths in the verbal domains, including early speech, large vocabulary, early reading and spelling skills, excellent rote-memory and auditory retention, and eloquent self-expression.
  1. Disorders of speaking and listening
    Difficulties that often co-occur with learning disabilities include difficulty with memory, social skills and executive functions (such as organizational skills and time management).
  2. Auditory processing disorder
    Difficulties processing auditory information include difficulty comprehending more than one task at a time and a relatively stronger ability to learn visually.



  • Speaks later than most children
  • Pronunciation problems
  • Slow vocabulary growth, often unable to find the right word
  • Difficulty rhyming words
  • Trouble learning numbers, alphabet, days of the week, colors, shapes
  • Extremely restless and easily distracted
  • Trouble interacting with peers
  • Difficulty following directions or routines
  • Fine motor skills slow to develop


  • Slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
  • Confuses basic words (run, eat, want)
  • Makes consistent reading and spelling errors including letter reversals (b/d), inversions (m/w), transpositions (felt/left), and substitutions (house/home)
  • Transposes number sequences and confuses arithmetic signs (+, -, x, /, =)
  • Slow to remember facts
  • Slow to learn new skills, relies heavily on memorization
  • Unstable pencil grip
  • Trouble learning about time
  • Poor coordination, unaware of physical surroundings, prone to accidents


  • Reverses letter sequences (soiled/solid, left/felt)
  • Slow to learn spelling strategies
  • Avoids reading aloud
  • Trouble with word problems
  • Difficulty with handwriting
  • Awkward, fist-like, or tight pencil grip
  • Avoids writing assignments
  • Slow or poor recall of facts
  • Difficulty making friends


The causes for learning disabilities are not well understood, and sometimes there is no apparent cause for a learning disability. However, some causes of neurological impairments include:

  • Heredity – Learning disabilities often run in the family.
  • Problems during pregnancy and birth.
  • Accidents after birth (head injuries, malnutrition, toxic exposure)


Evaluation depends on an integrated assessment of the child’s functioning in the following domains:

  • cognition – perceptual organization, memory, concept formation, and problem solving
  • communication – speech/language form, content, and use for receptive and expressive purposes
  • emergent literacy – phonological awareness, awareness of print; numeric – number recognition, and number concepts
  • motor functions – gross, fine, and oral motor abilities
  • sensory functions – auditory, kinesthetic, tactile, and visual systems
  • social – emotional adjustment, including behavior, temperament, and social interaction


Interventions include:
1. Mastery model:

  • Learners work at their own level of mastery.
  • Practice
  • Gain fundamental skills before moving onto the next level.
  1. Direct Instruction:
  • Highly structured, intensive instruction
  • Correcting mistakes immediately
  • Achievement-based grouping
  • Frequent progress assessment
  1. Classroom Adjustments:
  • Special seating assignments
  • Alternative or modified assignments
  • Modified testing procedures
  1. Special Equipment:
  • Electronic spellers and dictionaries
  • Talking alphabet
  • Books on tape
  1. Classroom Assistants:
  • Note-takers
  • Readers
  • Proofreaders
  1. Special Education:
  • Prescribed hours in a special class
  • Placement in special class

Enrollment in a special school for learning disabled students

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