What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is a neurological disorder.

Learning disabilities result from a difference in the way a person's brain is "wired." Individuals impacted by learning disabilities are as smart or often smarter than their peers. They may however have difficulty reading, writing, spelling, reasoning, recalling and/or organizing information if left to figure things out by themselves or if taught in conventional ways.

A learning disability cannot be cured or fixed; it is a lifelong issue. With the right support and intervention, however, success in school and careers can be attained.

Learning disabilities are not the result of economic disadvantage, environmental factors, or cultural differences.

Not all great minds think alike

Did you know that Albert Einstein could not read until he was nine?

Walt Disney, General George Patton, and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller had trouble reading all their lives. Whoopi Goldberg and Charles Schwab and many others have learning disabilities, which have not affected their ultimate success.

Facts about learning disabilities

  • Difficulty with basic reading and language skills are the most common learning disabilities. As many as 80% of students with learning disabilities have reading problems.

  • Learning disabilities often run in families.

  • Learning disabilities should not be confused with other disabilities such as autism, intellectual disability, deafness, blindness, and behavioral disorders

  • Attention disorders, such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities often occur at the same time, but the two disorders are not the same.

Common learning disabilities


Is a language-based disability in which a person has trouble understanding written words This may also be referred to as reading disability or reading disorder.


Is a mathematical disability in which a person has a difficult time solving arithmetic problems and grasping math concepts.


Is a writing disability in which a person finds it hard to form letters or write within a defined space.

Auditory and Visual Processing Disorders

Are sensory disabilities in which a person has difficulty-understanding language despite normal hearing and vision.

Nonverbal Learning Disabilities

Is a neurological disorder, which originates in the right hemisphere of the brain, causing problems with visual-spatial, intuitive, organizational, evaluative and holistic processing functions.

Common signs of a learning disabilities

Parents are often the first to notice "something doesn't seem right." If you are aware of the common signs of learning disabilities, you will be able to recognize potential problems early. The following is a checklist of characteristics that may point to a learning disability. It is normal to see one or more of these signs however, you see several of these characteristics over a long period, there may be a learning disability present.


  • Speaks later than most children

  • Pronunciation problems

  • Slow vocabulary growth, often unable to find the right word

  • Difficulty rhyming words

  • Trouble learning numbers, alphabet, days of the week, colors, shapes

  • Extremely restless and easily distracted

  • Trouble interacting with peers

  • Difficulty following directions or routines

  • Fine motor skills slow to develop

Grades K-4

  • Slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds

  • Confuses basic words (run, eat, want)

  • Makes consistent reading and spelling errors including letter reversals (b/d), inversions (m/w), transpositions (felt/left), and substitutions (house/home)

  • Transposes number sequences and confuses arithmetic signs (+, -, x, /, =)

  • Slow to remember facts

  • Slow to learn new skills, relies heavily on memorization

  • Impulsive, difficulty planning

  • Unstable pencil grip

  • Trouble learning about time

  • Poor coordination, unaware of physical surroundings, prone to accidents

Grades 5-8

  • Reverses letter sequences (soiled/solid, left/felt)

  • Slow to learn prefixes, suffixes, root words, and other spelling strategies

  • Avoids reading aloud

  • Trouble with word problems

  • Difficulty with handwriting

  • Awkward, fist-like, or tight pencil grip

  • Avoids writing assignments

  • Slow or poor recall of facts

  • Difficulty making friends

  • Trouble understanding body language and facial expressions

High School Students and Adults

  • Continues to spell incorrectly, frequently spells the same word differently in a single piece of writing

  • Avoids reading and writing tasks

  • Trouble summarizing

  • Trouble with open-ended questions on tests

  • Weak memory skills

  • Difficulty adjusting to new settings

  • Works slowly

  • Poor grasp of abstract concepts

  • Either pays too little attention to details or focuses on them too much

  • Misreads information