Learning Disabilities

What is a Learning Disability?

The term “learning disability” describes a neurobiological disorder that interferes with a person’s ability to speak, listen, read, write, spell, reason, recall, organize information or do mathematical calculation. Learning disabilities can co-exist with attention problems associated with Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder and related conditions. It is estimated that 15% to 20% of school-age population has a deficit in one or more of these areas. Individuals with learning disabilities can learn, but they need to be taught in a way that makes it possible for them to use their abilities to compensate for their weaknesses.

Learning disabilities are often called the “invisible handicap”. Because they can’t be seen, they often go undetected. This can result in a lifelong pattern of frustration and failure. With the right support and intervention children with learning disabilities can succeed in school and go on to be successful, productive adults.

Parents can help children with learning disabilities achieve success by encouraging their strengths, knowing their weaknesses, understanding the educational system, working with professionals and learning about strategies for dealing with specific difficulties.



Characterizations of LD


When a child has a learning disability, he or she:

  • may have trouble learning the alphabet, rhyming words, or connecting letters to their sounds
  • may make many mistakes when reading aloud, and repeat and pause often
  • may have real trouble with spelling
  • may have very messy handwriting or hold a pencil awkwardly
  • may struggle to express ideas in writing
  • may learn language late and have a limited vocabulary
  • may have trouble remembering the sounds that letters make or hearing slight differences between words
  • may have trouble understanding jokes, comic strips, and sarcasm
  • may have trouble following directions
  • may mispronounce words or use a wrong word that sounds similar
  • may have trouble organizing what he or she wants to say or not be able to think of the word he or she needs for writing or conversation
  • may not follow the social rules of conversation, such as taking turns, and may stand too close to the listener
  • may confuse math symbols and misread numbers
  • may not be able to retell a story in order (what happened first, second, third)

Reading Comprehension

  • Short attention span (restless, easily distracted)
  • Letter and number reversals (sees “b” for “d” or “p”, “6” for “9”, “pots” for “stop” or “post”)
  • Poor reading (below age and grade level)
  • Personal disorganization (difficulty in following simple directions/schedules; has trouble organizing, planning
  • Impulsive and/or inappropriate behavior (poor judgment in social situations, talks and acts before thinking)
  • Speech problems (immature language development, trouble expressing ideas, poor word recall)
  • Difficulty understanding and following instructions unless they are broken down to one or two tasks at a time
  • Seems immature and has difficulty making friends
  • Trouble remembering what someone just told him or her
  • Poor coordination (in gross motor activities such as walking or sports and/or in fine motor as tying a shoelace


California Special Ed LawSection 56337(a) A specific learning disability, as defined in Section 1401(30) of Title 20 of the United States Code, means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or perform mathematical calculations.  The term “specific learning disability” includes conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.  That term does not include a learning problem that is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.