Learning Disabilities

What can I do if I think my child may have intellectual disability?

Talk to your child’s doctor, teacher and/or school counselor. You may also explore other links on this web page for further information. Steps and procedures for getting help for your child are outlined in these documents.



There is some debate about how we classify specific learning disabilities or disorders (SLDs). The general rule of thumb is that an SLD occurs in a child while other cognitive capabilities are within the normal range. For example, a child can be average or above average in general cognitive abilities (e.g., IQ) but exhibit a specific problem learning how to read, write or do mathematics.

It’s complicated, however, in that a child may have multiple learning disorders. This can look like a general intelligence issue, when the child is in reality quite capable outside of these academic subjects. Or, a child may have trouble with reading and math, and therefore perform poorly on intellectual tests for these reasons, when in fact their general intelligence is intact. It is critically important therefore, that the correct diagnostic instruments be used by properly trained personnel.

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

Also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder. Children with this condition have trouble understanding what they hear. But this is not because they have a hearing problem per se: it is because their brain doesn’t properly analyze sounds, especially those of speech and language. This condition requires careful diagnosis as it can be confused with reading, language and attention disorders that are different from APD. See these web sites for more information on this disorder and helpful suggestions:  http://ldaamerica.org/ http://www.ldonline.org/.

Dyscalculia or Math Disability (MD)

This is a specific learning disability that affects a child’s ability to understand numbers, retain numbers or math processes in memory, and/or learn and apply math facts. Children with this condition may also have poor comprehension of math symbols and organizing numbers (e.g., columns of numbers get shifted or lines of numbers are misplaced in addition/subtraction formulas, etc.), have difficulty telling time, counting, or sequencing events. See these web sites for more information on this disorder and helpful suggestions: http://ldaamerica.org/ http://www.ldonline.org/.


5 ways to understand dyscalculia
Dyscalculia Information sheet
Gilger Dyscalculia
Top 10 tips for Dyscalculia

Dysgraphia or Writing Disability (WD)

This is a disorder of written expression. For many children with dysgraphia, just holding a pencil and organizing letters on a line is difficult, especially in the younger years. Yet throughout life, the handwriting of such people tends to be messy. Many struggle with spelling and putting thoughts on paper. These and other writing tasks—like putting ideas into language that is organized, stored and then retrieved from memory—may all add to struggles with written expression. While weaknesses in fine motor skills and coordination can be a contributor to this disorder, especially in the younger years, a WD that persists actually represents and neurological condition where the translation of language and thought into written expression is deficient. WD can co-occur and/or be confused with other SLDs such as dyslexia. See these web sites for more information on this disorder and helpful suggestions: http://ldaamerica.org/ & http://www.ldonline.org/.


Dysgraphia handout
gen-Gilger Dysgraphia
Interventions for Dysgraphia

Dyslexia or Reading Disability (RD)

Children with RD have problems dealing with deciphering, reading or comprehending text or written language. The severity of RD can differ across individuals, but it may influence reading fluency and speed, decoding word-letter sounds, comprehension of what is read, recalling text, writing skills, and spelling skills. Dyslexia is sometimes referred to as a Language-Based Learning Disability, yet it is different than disorders of speech and oral language (see other links on this site). See these web sites for more information on this disorder and helpful suggestions: http://ldaamerica.org/ &  http://www.ldonline.org/.


Dyslexia handbook teacher strategies
Infographic Dyslexia
Tips for the classroom dyslexia

Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities (NLD)

Nonverbal learning disability is a disorder usually characterized by a noticeable discrepancy between verbal and nonverbal abilities. Specifically, such children will exhibit much higher verbal skills relative to weaker motor, visual-spatial and social skills. A child with NLD has trouble interpreting nonverbal cues like facial expressions or body language, and may have poor coordination. Other common issues include symptoms of Math Disability (see above) and sometimes NLD can be confused with Autism Spectrum Disorder. See these web sites for more information on this disorder and helpful suggestions: http://ldaamerica.org/ & http://www.ldonline.org/.

Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit

This is a disorder that is commonly associated with dysgraphia and nonverbal SLD. It affects the understanding of information that a person sees and the ability to draw or copy. It can result in missing subtle differences in shapes or printed letters, losing place frequently, struggles with cutting, or poor eye/hand coordination. This is not a disorder of the eyes, but rather a neurological problem in the centers of the brain that process and interpret visual-spatial information. See these web sites for more information on this disorder and helpful suggestions: http://ldaamerica.org/ http://www.ldonline.org/.

General Discussion

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