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Learning Disabilities

Learning Disabilities

A specific learning disability is unique to the individual and can appear in a variety of ways.

An untrained observer may conclude that a person with a learning disability is "lazy" or "just not trying hard enough."

Learning disabilities usually fall within four broad categories:

Spoken language-listening and speakingWritten language-reading, writing, and spellingArithmetic-calculation and conceptsReasoning-organization and integration of ideas and thoughts

Few Common Types of Learning Disabilities:

Dyscalculia- A person with Dyscalculia has difficulty understanding and using math concepts and symbols.Dysgraphia- An individual with Dysgraphia has a difficult time with the physical task of forming letters and words with a pen and paper and has difficulty producing legible handwriting.Dyspraxia- Language comprehension of a person with Dyspraxia does not match language production. She may mix up words and sentences while talking.Dyslexia- An individual with Dyslexia may mix up letters within words and words within sentences while reading. He may also have difficulty spelling words correctly while writing; letter reversals are common.


Dyscalculia refers to a wide range of lifelong learning disabilities involving math. There is no single type of math disability. Dyscalculia can vary from person to person. And, it can affect people differently at different stages of life.

Two major areas of weakness can contribute to math learning disabilities:

Visual-spatial difficulties, which result in a person having trouble processing what the eye sees

Language processing difficulties, which result in a person having trouble processing and making sense of what the ear hears

*Using alternate learning methods, people with dyscalculia can achieve success.

What Are the Effects of Dyscalculia?

When basic math facts are not mastered earlier, teens and adults with dyscalculia may have trouble moving on to more advanced math applications.

What Are the Warning Signs by age of Dyscalculia?

Young Children

Trouble With:Difficulty learning to countTrouble recognizing printed numbersDifficulty tying together the idea of a number (4) and how it exists in the world (4 horses, 4 cars, 4 children)Poor memory for numbersTrouble organizing things in a logical way - putting round objects in one place and square ones in another

School-Aged Children

Trouble With:Trouble learning math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division)Difficulty developing math problem-solving skillsPoor long term memory for math functionsNot familiar with math vocabularyDifficulty measuring thingsAvoiding games that require strategy

Teenagers and Adults

Trouble With:Difficulty estimating costs like groceries billsDifficulty learning math concepts beyond the basic math factsPoor ability to budget or balance a checkbookTrouble with concepts of time, such as sticking to a schedule or approximating timeTrouble with mental mathDifficulty finding different approaches to one problem

How Is Dyscalculia Identified?

When a teacher or trained professional evaluates a student for learning disabilities in math, the student is interviewed about a full range of math-related skills and behaviors. Pencil and paper math tests are often used, but an evaluation needs to accomplish more.

Below are some of the areas that may be addressed in identifying students with Dyscalculia:

Ability with basic math skills like counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividingAbility to predict appropriate procedures based on understanding patternsknowing when to add, subtract, multiply, divide or do more advanced computationsAbility to organize objects in a logical wayAbility to measuretelling time, using moneyAbility to estimate number quantitiesAbility to self-check work and find alternate ways to solve problems.

How Is Dyscalculia Treated?

Repeated reinforcement and specific practice of straightforward ideas can make understanding easier. Other strategies for inside and outside the classroom include:Use graph paper for students who have difficulty organizing ideas on paper.Work on finding different ways to approach math facts; i.e., instead of just memorizing the multiplication tables, explain that 8 x 2 = 16, so if 16 is doubled, 8 x 4 must = 32.

Practice estimating as a way to begin solving math problems.Introduce new skills beginning with concrete examples and later moving to more abstract applications.For language difficulties, explain ideas and problems clearly and encourage students to ask questions as they work.Provide a place to work with few distractions and have pencils, erasers and other tools on hand as needed.


Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing, which requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills. Dysgraphia makes the act of writing difficult. It can lead to problems with spelling, poor handwriting and putting thoughts on paper.

People with dysgraphia can have trouble organizing letters, numbers and words on a line or page. This can result partly from:

Visual-spatial difficulties: trouble processing what the eye seesLanguage processing difficulty: trouble processing and making sense of what the ear hears

What Are the Warning Signs of Dysgraphia?

Just having bad handwriting doesnt mean a person has dysgraphia. Since dysgraphia is a processing disorder, difficulties can change throughout a lifetime. However since writing is a developmental processchildren learn the motor skills needed to write.

Young Children

Trouble With:Tight, awkward pencil grip and body positionAvoiding writing or drawing tasksTrouble forming letter shapesInconsistent spacing between letters or wordsPoor understanding of uppercase and lowercase lettersInability to write or draw in a line or within marginsTiring quickly while writing

School-Age Children

Trouble With:Illegible handwritingMixture of cursive and print writingSaying words out loud while writingConcentrating so hard on writing that comprehension of what's written is missedTrouble thinking of words to writeOmitting or not finishing words in sentences

Teenagers and Adults

Trouble With:Trouble organizing thoughts on paperTrouble keeping track of thoughts already written downDifficulty with syntax structure and grammarLarge gap between written ideas and understanding demonstrated through speech

What Strategies Can Help?

Generally strategies fall into three main categories:Accommodations: providing alternatives to written expressionModifications: changing expectations or tasks to minimize or avoid the area of weaknessRemediation: providing instruction for improving handwriting and writing skills

Here are examples of how to teach individuals with dysgraphia to overcome some of their difficulties with written expression.

Early Writers

Be patient and positive, encourage practice and praise effort. Becoming a good writer takes time and practice.Use paper with raised lines for a sensory guide to staying within the lines.Try different pens and pencils to find one thats most comfortable.Practice writing letters and numbers in the air with big arm movements to improve motor memory of these important shapes. Also practice letters and numbers with smaller hand or finger motions.

Encourage proper grip, posture and paper positioning for writing. Its important to reinforce this early as its difficult for students to unlearn bad habits later on.Use multi-sensory techniques for learning letters, shapes and numbers. For example, speaking through motor sequences, such as b is big stick down, circle away from my body.Introduce a word processor on a computer early; however do not eliminate handwriting for the child. While typing can make it easier to write by alleviating the frustration of forming letters, handwriting is a vital part of a person's ability to function in the world.

Young StudentsEncourage practice through low-stress opportunities for writing. This might include writing letters or in a diary, making household lists, or keeping track of sports teams.Allow use of print or cursivewhichever is more comfortable.Use large graph paper for math calculation to keep columns and rows organized.Allow extra time for writing assignments.Begin writing assignments creatively with drawing, or speaking ideas into a tape recorder.

Teenagers and Adults

Provide tape recorders to supplement note taking and to prepare for writing assignments.Create a step-by-step plan that breaks writing assignments into small tasks (see below).When organizing writing projects, create a list of keywords that will be useful.

Dyspraxia is a disorder that affects motor skill development. People with dyspraxia have trouble planning and completing fine motor tasks. This can vary from simple motor tasks such as waving goodbye to more complex tasks like brushing teeth.

It is estimated that dyspraxia affects at least two percent of the general population, and 70% of those affected are male. As many as six percent of all children show some signs of dyspraxia.A person with dyspraxia can learn to function independently. Special learning methods and repeated practice of basic tasks can help. Sometimes occupational, physical, or speech therapy is also needed.

What Are the Effects of Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia is a lifelong disorder. Its severity and symptoms can vary from person to person. And, it can affect people differently at different stages of life. Dyspraxia can affect many basic functions required for daily living.

Categories of DyspraxiaIdeomotor DyspraxiaCo