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What are Learning Disabilities?

Rocks and sand are positioned in a zen garden.
Rocks and sand are positioned in a zen garden.

Learning disability is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of information processing disorders that affects learning. People with learning disabilities may have difficulties with reading, math, writing, spatial orientation or other skills that are not caused by or related to another condition or disability.

What are the different types of learning disabilities?

Auditory Processing Disorder

This condition affects the ability to process spoken words and sounds. Hearing is usually unaffected, but the brain inaccurately interprets signals received from the ear. This causes difficulty understanding and remembering orally presented information, distinguishing between different sounds and focusing on one sound in a noisy environment.


Dyscalculia involves difficulty with numbers or mathematical operations. People with dyscalculia may have problems aligning numbers and doing mathematical operations, or they may reverse numbers or have spatial difficulties.


People with dysgraphia have difficulty with producing organized or clear writing. The main problem may be poor handwriting, or there may also be disorganized constructions, mechanical errors, omissions of characters or words, or transpositions of letters or words. 


People with dyslexia have difficulty associating sounds and symbols. They may experience problems with spelling, accurate and/or fluent word recognition, reading speed and comprehension, as well as with mathematics.


Individuals with dyspraxia have difficulty processing messages from the brain to the body. They may have a poor sense of direction or coordination, such as catching or throwing a ball, using scissors, drawing, etc. Some individuals also have speech impairments.

Visual Processing Disorder

People with this disorder have a hard time accurately receiving and processing visual information. They may have difficulty discerning an object from other objects in the background or seeing objects in correct order.

These conditions are typically diagnosed by clinical psychologists, neuropsychologists, or trained educational specialists through an extensive series of neurological, psychological, educational, and vocational assessments. The U.S. and other countries may require current documentation from such specialists to approve academic accommodations on standardized testing or during an exchange program.

What are typical accommodations?

  • Highlighted textbooks
  • Extended time on tests or assignments
  • Peer assistance with note taking
  • Frequent feedback
  • Extra set of textbooks for home use
  • Computer aided instruction
  • Enlarged print
  • Positive reinforcements
  • Behavior intervention plans
  • Rearranging class schedules
  • Visual aids
  • Preferred seating assignments
  • Taping lectures
  • Oral tests
  • Individual contracts

They may also benefit from connecting with coaching or training centers that tutor on skills such as writing, organizing, and studying.

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