Learning Disabilities Overview

Learning disabilities are neurologically-based conditions that interfere with the acquisition, storage, organization, and use of skills and knowledge.  They are identified by the existence of deficits in academic functioning and in processing memory, auditory, visual, and linguistic information.  The diagnosis of a learning disability in an adult requires documentation of at least average intellectual functioning along with deficits in such areas as:

  • Auditory processing
  • Visual processing
  • Information processing speed
  • Abstract reasoning
  • Memory (long-term, short-term, visual, auditory)
  • Spoken and written language skills
  • Reading skills
  • Mathematical skills
  • Visual spatial skills
  • Motor skills
  • Executive functioning (planning)

Some considerations:

  • A learning disability is not a disorder that a student "grows out of."  It is a permanent disorder affecting how students with normal or above-average intelligence process incoming information, outgoing information, or both.
  • Learning disabilities are often inconsistent.  They may be manifested in only one specific academic area, such as math or foreign language.  There might be problems in grade school, none in high school, and again in college.
  • Learning disabilities are not the same as mental retardation or emotional disorders.
  • Common accommodations for students with learning disabilities are alternative print formats,  audio recorded lectures, notetakers, adaptive technology, course substitutions, early syllabus, exam modifications, priority registration, and study skills and strategies training.