Diagnosing LD

Everything You Never Knew About Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities come in many disguises, last a lifetime, and can’t be “cured.” The key to management is early detection and intervention. Parents, read this to know what you’re looking for — and how to best deal with it.

There are many different types of learning disabilities, such as the one this student is suffering from while his teacher tries to explain something.
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What Are Learning Disabilities?

The term learning disabilities (LD) is used to describe a group of disorders that affect how someone learns. When you have a learning disability, you have difficulty in reading, writing, mathematics, listening, and/or speaking. There is usually a large difference between what is expected based on your intelligence and your actual performance.

Fabric with multi-colored puzzle pieces that represents autism, a diagnosis that many learning disabilities are confused with
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A Learning Disability Is Not...

Many people describe a learning disability based on what it is not. In other words, certain conditions must be ruled out before a learning disability can be diagnosed. A learning disability is not: an intellectual disability (you must have an IQ over 85 to be diagnosed with a learning disability), hearing loss, vision problems, a behavior or emotional disturbance, attention deficit disorder, or autism.

A close of of a woman's face, leaning against a tree while she thinks about the different types of learning disabilities
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Learning Disabilities Are Lifelong Conditions

Since many people learn to compensate for their learning differences as they mature, it can seem as if the learning disability has disappeared. It is for this reason that it was once thought that LDs only impacted children. We now know that learning disabilities continue throughout a person’s life, even if they learn to compensate for the difficulty.

A girl looks glum while she writes an essay about the different types of learning disabilities.
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Main Types of Learning Disabilities

The term learning disability encompasses many different learning differences. The three main types of learning disabilities are: reading disabilities, written language disabilities, and math disabilities. Each type of LD can include several different disorders. There is not one “learning disability.” There are other, less common learning disorders that impact memory, social skills, and executive functioning.

A girl looks stressed in the library where she reads books about the different types of learning disabilities.
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Reading Disabilities

This is often referred to as dyslexia. Between 2 and 8 percent of school-aged children have a reading disability. Some of the common signs of a reading disability include: difficulty associating or recognizing sounds that go with letters and separating the sounds within words, difficulty sounding out words, trouble rhyming, problems understanding and using words and grammar, and poor spelling.

A girl sits at her desk in a classroom and writes an essay about the different types of learning disabilities.
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Writing Disabilities

Writing disabilities, called dysgraphia, affect a person’s ability to express their thoughts in writing. Some of the common signs include: awkward or tight grip on a pencil, illegible handwriting, speaking the words out loud while writing, omitting words in sentences, difficulty with grammar and syntax structure, avoidance of writing tasks, and difficulty organizing thoughts when writing.

A boy stands in front of a chalk board and scratches his head, confused about the different types of learning disabilities
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Mathematics Disabilities

Dyscalculia is a broad term for many different types of disorders that involve problems with math. Some signs include: slow to develop counting and math problem-solving skills, difficulty recalling number sequences, computing problems, problems with time concepts, poor sense of direction, and difficulty completing mental math. A child with math LDs might be able to complete math problems one day, but seem lost and confused when facing the same problems the next day.

A student wearing a backpack and holding books looks into the distance and thinks about the different types of learning disabilities.
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Executive Function Disabilities

Executive function is used to describe the mental processes needed for organization, planning, strategizing, remembering details, and managing time. Deficits in these areas often cause learning difficulties. Signs of executive function problems include: indecisiveness, trouble with multi-step tasks, difficulty setting goals, forgetting details soon after reading is finished, and time management problems.

A teacher helps a girl who is struggling in class. She may have a learning disability.
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Identifying Learning Disabilities

If parents or teachers notice a child is struggling in school, in one area or in several areas, and his or her performance doesn’t match intellectual level, an assessment is completed. There is no single test for learning disabilities. Instead, a series of assessments are done, which often include performance tests and IQ tests.

A teacher helps a student who is struggling in class. She may have a learning disability.
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Treatment for Learning Disabilities

There is no medication or medical treatment to help improve a learning disability. Educational strategies can be incorporated into your child’s classroom or, based on the level of disability, your child might begin special education classes.

A teacher helps a student with a learning disability who is working on a project in the library.
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Academic Interventions

Because each child with a learning disability is different and might struggle in specific areas, there are no “standard” academic interventions. Instead, the school district, along with the parents, should complete an Individualized Education Program (IEP) geared toward the child’s specific areas of difficulties. However, all students with LDs should benefit from organized and sequenced instruction, help with organization, and multi-sensory teaching techniques.

A group of students who overcame their learning disabilities and graduated hold their diplomas.
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LD Success

LDs are a lifelong condition, but that doesn't mean a child with a learning disability can’t succeed. People with LDs can be found in every type of occupation. Some examples of famous people with LDs include: Cher, Agatha Christie, Tom Cruise, and Whoopi Goldberg. Many other people from history are thought to have had a learning disability, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Thomas Jefferson, George Patton, and George Washington.

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