Students with specific learning disabilities have average to above-average intelligence, but may have difficulties acquiring and demonstrating knowledge and understanding. This often results in a significant discrepancy between age-related achievement levels and actual intellectual ability.


According to the National Joint Committee for Learning Disabilities, learning disabilities are a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. The effects of a learning disability manifest differently for each individual, and can range from mild to severe. Learning disabilities may also be present with other disabilities, such as mobility or sensory impairments.

Specific types of learning disabilities include:

  • Dysgraphia
    An individual with dysgraphia has difficulty with the physical task of forming letters and words using a pen and paper and has difficulty producing legible handwriting.
  • Dyscalculia
    An individual with dyscalculia has difficulty understanding and using math concepts and symbols.
  • Dyslexia
    An individual with dyslexia has difficulty spelling words correctly while writing and may mix up letters within words and sentences while reading. Some individuals with dyslexia have difficulty with spatial directions, such as left and right, and may have difficulty with navigating and route-finding tasks.
  • Dyspraxia
    An individual with dyspraxia may mix up words and sentences while talking. There is often a discrepancy between language comprehension and language production.
  • Non-verbal Learning Disorder
    An individual with a non-verbal learning disorder may have difficulty with motor coordination, visual-spatial organization, and/or a lack of social skills.

For a student with a learning disability, auditory, visual, or tactile information can become jumbled at any point during transmission, receipt, processing, and/or re-transmission. Students with learning disabilities may take longer to process written information or may have difficulty completing reading or writing assignments and tests in a standard amount of time. Inconsistencies between knowledge and test scores are common, as are difficulties with attention, organization, time management, and prioritizing tasks.


Typical accommodations for students who have learning disabilities include:

  • note takers
  • recorded class sessions
  • extended exam times and quiet testing locations
  • visual, aural, and tactile demonstrations incorporated into instruction
  • concise course, lecture, and presentation outlines
  • publications in large print
  • audio books and e-books
  • alternative evaluation methods (e.g., portfolio, oral, or video presentations)
  • detailed printed or recorded project descriptions or instructions
  • directions reinforced verbally
  • presenting large amounts of information or instruction in smaller segments

Computer adaptations and accommodations for students with learning disabilities include:

  • software that highlights and reads text aloud
  • word processing software that includes electronic spelling and grammar checkers, highlighting capabilities, and word prediction
  • screen- and text-enlargement software

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