A learning disability is a life-long disorder that affects the manner in which individuals take in information, organize it, retain it and express the knowledge and understanding which they possess. Students with learning disabilities have average to superior intelligence, but experience a significant learning difficulty in one or more academic areas. These deficits most commonly impact reading, written expression, and/or mathematical computation. 1
Characteristics of students with learning disabilities: 1
- Long term difficulty in reading, writing, spelling and/or mathematical concepts in contrast to average or superior skills in other areas.
- Slowed reading speed. Takes two or three times longer to read than other people.
- Severe difficulty spelling common words.
- Difficulty with mathematical concepts including calculation, time and space.
- Excessive difficulty in learning a foreign language.
- Difficulty expressing and organizing thoughts on paper.
- Verbal skills far exceed reading, spelling and/or writing skills.
- Difficulty taking notes and listening to a lecture at the same time.
- Slowed processing of information: needs "think time" to respond to questions, to retrieve information or to solve problems.
- Confusion of visually similar letters, numerals or words. Illegible handwriting.
- Difficulty recalling and integrating information presented orally.
- Trouble focusing and sustaining attention.
Major Types of Learning Disabilities
Oral language disabilities involve difficulties with listening and speaking. A person with an oral language LD may have difficulty understanding what’s been said or communicating thoughts and ideas orally to others. These difficulties tend to be in certain areas of oral language expression and reception, not across the board. Frequently, individuals with oral language problems will also have difficulty with written language.
Written language disabilities are thought to be the most common form of LD. This general category describes problems with reading, spelling and writing. Dyslexia is the most well known LD in this category. Dyslexic individuals do not see words or letters backwards, but rather experience problems translating thought to language or language to thought due to differences in how their brain processes information.
Nonacademic learning disabilities can cause problems with socialization and daily life skills. A person with this type of LD may have problems perceiving or interpreting facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice, or body language. The ability to respond in a social situation can be hindered.
1 UCLA Learning Disabilities Program. LD Program Brochure