Decoding the Lingo of Learning Disabilities
What are the most common learning disabilities and what do they affect?
When learning about a diagnosis, all of the new abbreviations, terms and lingo can make you feel like you are wading through alphabet soup. Here is a primer on three common learning disabilities (LD) and the basic characteristics of each. To learn more about learning and attention issues, visit ncld.org or understood.org.
According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), the most common types of specific learning disabilities impact reading, math and written expression. Here’s how they define each.
Dyslexia is the term associated with specific learning disabilities in reading. Although features of LD in reading vary from person to person, common characteristics include:
- Difficulty with phonemic awareness (the ability to notice, think about and work with individual sounds in words)
- Phonological processing (detecting and discriminating differences in phonemes or speech sounds)
- Difficulties with word decoding, fluency, rate of reading, rhyming, spelling, vocabulary, comprehension and written expression
Dysgraphia is the term associated with specific learning disabilities in writing. It is used to capture both the physical act of writing and the quality of written expression. Features of learning disabilities in writing are often seen in individuals who struggle with dyslexia and dyscalculia, and will vary from person to person and at different ages and stages of development. Common characteristics include:
- Tight, awkward pencil grip and body position
- Tiring quickly while writing, and avoiding writing or drawing tasks
- Trouble forming letter shapes as well as inconsistent spacing between letters or words
- Difficulty writing or drawing on a line or within margins
- Trouble organizing thoughts on paper
- Trouble keeping track of thoughts already written down
- Difficulty with syntax structure and grammar
- Large gap between written ideas and understanding demonstrated through speech
Dyscalculia is the term associated with specific learning disabilities in math. Although features of LD in math vary from person to person, common characteristics include:
- Difficulty with counting, learning number facts and doing math calculations
- Difficulty with measurement, telling time, counting money and estimating number quantities
- Trouble with mental math and problem-solving strategies
Excerpted with permission from The State of Learning Disabilities: Facts, Trends and Emerging Issues, 2014. Reprinted courtesy of NCLD.org © 2014 NCLD, Inc. All rights reserved.