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Learning Disabilities: Condition Information

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What are learning disabilities?

Learning disabilities are conditions that affect how a person learns to read, write, speak, and calculate numbers. They are caused by differences in brain structure and affect the way a person’s brain processes information.1

Learning disabilities are usually discovered after a child begins attending school and has difficulties in one or more subjects that do not improve over time. A person can have more than one learning disability.2 Learning disabilities can last a person’s entire life, but they may be alleviated with the right educational supports.3

A learning disability is not an indication of a person’s intelligence. Also, learning disabilities are not the same as learning problems due to intellectual and developmental disabilities, or emotional, vision, hearing, or motor skills problems.4

Some of the most common learning disabilities include the following:

  • Dyslexia. This condition causes problems with language skills, particularly reading. People with dyslexia may have difficulty spelling, understanding sentences, and recognizing words they already know.5
  • Dysgraphia. People with dysgraphia have problems with their handwriting. They may have problems forming letters, writing within a defined space, and writing down their thoughts.6,7
  • Dyscalculia. People with this math learning disability may have difficulty understanding arithmetic concepts and doing such tasks as addition, multiplication, and measuring.8
  • Dyspraxia. This condition, also termed sensory integration disorder, involves problems with motor coordination that lead to poor balance and clumsiness. Poor hand-eye coordination also causes difficulty with fine motor tasks such as putting puzzles together and coloring within the lines.9
  • Apraxia of speech. Sometimes called verbal apraxia, this disorder involves problems with speaking. People with this disorder have trouble saying what they want to say correctly and consistently.10
  • Central auditory processing disorder. People with this condition have trouble understanding and remembering language-related tasks. They have difficulty explaining things, understanding jokes, and following directions. They confuse words and are easily distracted.11
  • Nonverbal learning disorders. People with these conditions have strong verbal skills but great difficulty understanding facial expression and body language. In addition, they are physically clumsy and have trouble generalizing and following multistep directions.12
  • Visual perceptual/visual motor deficit. People with this condition mix up letters; they might confuse "m" and "w" or "d" and "b," for example. They may also lose their place while reading, copy inaccurately, write messily, and cut paper clumsily.13
  • Aphasia. Aphasia (pronounced uh-FEY-zhuh), also called dysphasia (pronounced dis-FEY-zhuh), is a language disorder. A person with this disorder has difficulty understanding spoken language, poor reading comprehension, trouble with writing, and great difficulty finding words to express thoughts and feelings.14 Aphasia occurs when the language areas of the brain are damaged. In adults, it often is caused by stroke, but children may get aphasia from a brain tumor, head injury, or brain infection.15

  1. National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. (2011). Learning disabilities. Retrieved June 26, 2012, from http://nichcy.org/wp-content/uploads/docs/fs7.pdf External Web Site Policy (PDF - 141 KB) [top]
  2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2011). NINDS learning disabilities information page. Retrieved June 26, 2012, from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/learningdisabilities/learningdisabilities.htm [top]
  3. LD OnLine. (n.d.). What is a learning disability? Retrieved June 26, 2012, from http://www.ldonline.org/ldbasics/whatisld External Web Site Policy [top]
  4. LD OnLine. (n.d.). What is a learning disability? Retrieved June 26, 2012, from http://www.ldonline.org/ldbasics/whatisld External Web Site Policy [top]
  5. International Dyslexia Association. (2008). Dyslexia basics. Retrieved June 21, 2012, from http://www.interdys.org/ewebeditpro5/upload/BasicsFactSheet.pdf External Web Site Policy (PDF - 43 KB) [top]
  6. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2011). What is dysgraphia? Retrieved June 26, 2012, from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/dysgraphia/dysgraphia.htm [top]
  7. National Center for Learning Disabilities. (2010). What is dysgraphia? Retrieved June 26, 2012, from http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/ld-aamp-language/writing/dysgraphia External Web Site Policy [top]
  8. National Center for Learning Disabilities. (2010). What is dyscalculia? Retrieved June 26, 2012, from http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/ld-aamp-language/ld-aamp-math/what-is-dyscalculia External Web Site Policy [top]
  9. Learning Disabilities Association of America. (n.d.). Dyspraxia. Retrieved June 15, 2012, from http://www.ldaamerica.us/aboutld/parents/ld_basics/dyspraxia.asp External Web Site Policy [top]
  10. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2010). Apraxia of speech. Retrieved August 30, 2012, from http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/pages/apraxia.aspx [top]
  11. Learning Disabilities Association of America. (n.d.). Central auditory processing disorder. Retrieved June 15, 2012, from http://www.ldaamerica.us/aboutld/parents/ld_basics/central.asp External Web Site Policy [top]
  12. Learning Disabilities Association of America. (n.d.). Non-verbal learning disorders. Retrieved June 15, 2012, from http://www.ldaamerica.us/aboutld/parents/ld_basics/non-verbal.aspExternal Web Site Policy [top]
  13. Learning Disabilities Association of America. (n.d.). Visual perceptual/visual motor deficit. Retrieved June 15, 2012, from http://www.ldaamerica.us/aboutld/parents/ld_basics/visual.aspExternal Web Site Policy [top]
  14. Learning Disabilities Association of America. (n.d.). Language disorders: Aphasia, dysphasia, or global aphasia. Retrieved June 15, 2012, from http://www.ldaamerica.us/aboutld/parents/ld_basics/language.asp External Web Site Policy [top]
  15. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2008). Aphasia. Retrieved June 29, 2012, from http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/pages/aphasia.aspx [top]

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Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 02/28/2014
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