What are specific types of learning disabilities?

Date Updated

A specific learning disability is unique to the individual and can appear in a variety of ways. It may be difficult to diagnose, to determine impact, and to accommodate. Generally speaking, someone may be diagnosed with a learning disability if they are of average or above-average intelligence and there is a lack of achievement at age and ability level or there is a large discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability.

An untrained observer may conclude that a person with a learning disability is "lazy" or "just not trying hard enough." He may have a difficult time understanding the large discrepancy between reading comprehension and proficiency in verbal ability. The observer sees only the input and output, not the processing of the information. Deficiencies in the processing of information make learning and expressing ideas difficult or impossible tasks. Learning disabilities usually fall within four broad categories:

  • Spoken language-listening and speaking
  • Written language-reading, writing, and spelling
  • Arithmetic-calculation and concepts
  • Reasoning-organization and integration of ideas and thoughts

A person with a learning disability may have discrepancies in one or all of these categories. The effects of an LD are manifested differently for different individuals and range from mild to severe. Learning disabilities may also be present along with other disabilities, such as mobility or sensory impairments. Often people with Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) also have learning disabilities. Specific types of learning disabilities include the following:

  • Dysgraphia-An individual with Dysgraphia has a difficult time with the physical task of forming letters and words with a pen and paper and has difficulty producing legible handwriting.
  • Dyscalculia-A person with Dyscalculia has difficulty understanding and using math concepts and symbols.
  • Dyspraxia-Language comprehension of a person with Dyspraxia does not match language production. She may mix up words and sentences while talking.
  • Nonverbal Learning Disorder-A Nonverbal Learning Disorder is demonstrated by below-average motor coordination, visual-spatial organization, and social skills.
  • Dyslexia-An individual with Dyslexia may mix up letters within words and words within sentences while reading. He may also have difficulty spelling words correctly while writing; letter reversals are common. Some individuals with Dyslexia may also have a difficult time with navigating and route finding using right/left and/or compass directions.

For information about how technology can benefit individuals with learning disabilities, consult Working Together: Computers and People with Learning Disabilities.