A learning disability (LD) affects one or more of the ways that a person processes, remembers, understands, and/or expresses information, therefore LDs impact not only education but many areas of life. At the same time, it is important to remember that, by definition, a person with a learning disability demonstrates average abilities in many areas related to thinking and reasoning. LDs should not be confused with other disabilities, such as developmental delay/disability, autism, vision or hearing impairments, or behavioural disorders. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders and LDs often occur together, but the two disorders are not the same. LDs often run in families.
LDs are identified through psychological or psycho-educational assessment. These assessments use standardized testing tools to identify impairments in one or more processes that directly relate to learning and other areas of functioning. Assessments are conducted by qualified professionals, and a diagnosis of a Learning Disability is given by regulated health professionals, usually psychologists or psychological associates, who follow guidelines and criteria for making the diagnosis.
A learning disability can affect people in many different ways and can range from mild to severe. Children may have difficulty expressing themselves, listening, and understanding; they may have trouble reading and understanding what is read. Writing may be difficult for them (from spelling through to written expression), or mathematics skills might be very weak (from computation to applying a variety of skills to solve mathematical problems). LDs may also affect a child’s ability to interact socially or stay organized. Difficulty with basic reading and language skills are the most common areas affected by a learning disability, but some people with learning disabilities may not struggle with reading and language but will struggle in other ways.
In the early years of schooling the following “signs” might be seen in students or in their school work. These signs might lead us to look more closely at how and why the student is struggling.
Some students may progress adequately or with only a few struggles in the early years, but in Grades 4 through 8 or beyond progress stalls or difficulties such as the following may emerge and/or become more significant:
Though these “signs” are commonly seen in students who have a learning disability, the list is not exhaustive, and it should be noted that they may also be associated with difficulties other than learning disabilities.
Students do not grow out of LDs, but they can learn strategies and use their strengths to compensate for the LD, and benefit from ACCOMMODATIONS and assists to work around the LD, thus enabling them to achieve successes in life. Many people who work in the area of learning disabilities or who have LDs themselves use the term “learning differences” to support the notion that people with LDs are capable of learning but may need to do so in ways that are different from what is typical.