Learning Disabilities

Learning Disabilities are neurodevelopmental disorders that impact the ability to learn or use specific academic skills, such as reading, writing or math.  People with Learning Disabilities will have difficulties in at least one of the following areas:

  1. Reading (e.g., inaccurate, slow and only with much effort)
  2. Understanding the meaning of what is read
  3. Spelling
  4. Written expression (e.g., problems with grammar, punctuation or organization)
  5. Understanding number concepts, number facts or calculation
  6. Mathematical reasoning (e.g., applying math concepts or solving math problems) (DSM V, 2013)

The way in which LD is expressed may vary over an individual’s lifetime, depending on the interaction between the demands of the environment and the individual’s strengths and needs. Learning disabilities are suggested by unexpected academic under-achievement or achievement that is maintained only by unusually high levels of effort and support. When assessing the presence of LD, the first benchmark is an average or above average intellectual ability. This translates into students who have the capacity to learn new information but may need more time to do so or may need to use alternate ways of learning, many of which they will do independently and outside of the classroom.

Students with LD at the post secondary level have usually learned to use compensatory strategies as well as access services and accommodations; however, they may benefit from additional support to adjust to the college setting. Students who struggle with reading fluency and comprehension may benefit from receiving class readings ahead of time and from electronic copies of text that can be read using text-to-speech software. Students who struggle with written expression and spelling may benefit from writing exams on a computer, rather than by hand. Students with LD may also benefit from working with a tutor to improve their academic skills and develop individualized learning strategies.

For more information on the impacts of this disability and classroom accommodations see Written Expression, Information Processing, Organization and Time Management, and Memory.