Specific Learning Disabilities

  •  Specific Learning Disabilities

         Specific learning disabilities can be defined by a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language. This disorder may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, read, write, spell, and/or to perform mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual impairments, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor impairments; intellectual disabilities; emotional disturbance; or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

    In determining the existence of a specific learning disability, the following must be present:

      1.   Does not achieve at the proper age and ability levels in one or more of several specific areas when provided with appropriate learning experiences and age-appropriate instruction in one or more of the following areas:
        1. oral expression
        2. listening comprehension
        3. written expression
        4. basic reading skill
        5. reading fluency skills
        6. reading comprehension
        7. mathematics calculations
        8. mathematics reasoning


      2.   Does not make adequate progress to meet age or grade-level standards in one or more of the prior areas identified when utilizing the process of the child's response to empirically based interventions; or a pattern of weaknesses and strengths have been determined to exist in performance, achievement or both, relative to age, state-approved grade-level standards, or intellectual development, as determined by certified assessment professionals.

         Specific learning disabilities are considered a high-incidence disability. The U.S. Department of Education reports that there are over 2.8 million students being served for specific learning disabilities. This number of students is approximately 47.4% of all children receiving special education services.

         Students with learning disabilities are very heterogeneous, meaning that no two students possess the identical profile of strengths and weaknesses. The concept of learning disabilities covers an extremely wide range of characteristics. One student may have a deficit in just one area while another may exhibit deficits in numerous areas, yet both may be labeled as learning disabled.
         Over time, parents, educators, and other professionals have identified a wide variety of characteristics associated with learning disabilities. These include:

    • Academic problems
    • Disorders of attention
    • Poor motor abilities
    • Psychological process deficits and information-processing problems
    • Lack of cognitive strategies needed for efficient learning
    • Oral language difficulties
    • Reading difficulties
    • Written language problems
    • Mathematical disorders
    • Social skill deficits

         Not all students will exhibit these characteristics, and many pupils who demonstrate these same behaviors are successful in the classroom. For students with a learning disability, it is the quantity, intensity, and duration of these behaviors that lead to problems in school and elsewhere. It should also be noted that boys are four times more likely to be labeled with a learning disability than girls. The reason for this has not yet been determined by researchers.