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Fact Sheet: Learning Disabilities

Definition of Learning Disabilities

A disorder in one or more of the basic processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language, that impacts an individuals ability of in one of the following areas:

  • listening
  • thinking
  • speaking
  • reading
  • writing
  • spelling
  • doing mathematical calculations

Learning disabilities include such conditions as:

  • perceptual disabilities
  • brain injury
  • minimal brain dysfunction
  • dyslexia
  • developmental aphasia.

Learning disabilities do not include learning problems that are primarily the result of:

  • visual, hearing, or motor disabilities
  • mental retardation
  • environmental or cultural factors
  • economic disadvantage

Incidence

Estimates of the number of individuals with learning disabilities vary greatly, ranging from 1% to 30% of the general population. (Differences in estimates may reflect variations in the definition used.) In 1987, the Interagency Committee on Learning Disabilities concluded that 5% to 10% is a reasonable estimate of the percentage of people affected by learning disabilities.

Characteristics

  • People with learning disabilities are usually of average or even above average intelligence. Learning disabilities are characterized by a significant difference between the individuals achievement in different areas, as compared to his or her overall intelligence.
  • Learning disabilities may occur in the following areas:
    • Spoken language: Delays, disorders, or discrepancies in listening and speaking;
    • Written language: Difficulties with reading, writing, and spelling;
    • Arithmetic: Difficulty performing arithmetic functions or in comprehending basic concepts
    • Reasoning: Difficulty organizing and integrating thoughts
    • Organization skills: Difficulty organizing all facets of learning

It is important to remember that there is a high degree of interrelationship and overlapping among areas of learning. Individuals with learning disabilities may exhibit a combination of characteristics.

The following may also be associated with learning disabilities:

  • hyperactivity
  • inattention
  • perceptual coordination problems

A variety of other symptoms may be present, including:

  • uneven and unpredictable test performance
  • perceptual impairments
  • motor disorders
  • impulsiveness
  • low tolerance for frustration
  • problems in handling day-to-day social interactions and situations

Vocational and Employment Issues

The label learning disabilities is all-embracing; it describes a syndrome, not a specific individual with specific problems. Therefore, assisting an individual with a learning disability to obtain employment requires a very personalized approach that takes into account an individuals strengths and support needs. An individuals learning disability may mildly, moderately, or severely impair the learning process.

Guidelines for Working with Individuals with Learning Disabilities

  • Capitalize on the individual's strengths
  • Provide high structure and clear expectations
  • Provide opportunities for success in a supportive atmosphere to help build self-esteem
  • Allow flexibility in procedures (e.g., when individuals have trouble with written language allow them to use of tape recorders for note-taking; allow completion of forms and diagnostic tests orally)

C.H.A.D.D. (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders)

8181 Professional Place; Suite 201
Landover, MD 20785
Voice: (301) 306-7070; (800) 233-4050
Fax: (301) 306-7090
E-mail: national@chadd.org
Web: www.chadd.org

Provides resources involving support, education, and advocacy for persons with Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder.

Council for Learning Disabilities (CLD)

P.O. Box 40303
Overland Park, KS 66204
Voice: (913) 492-8755
Fax: (913) 492-2546
E-mail: webmaster@cldinternational.org
Web: www.cldinternational.org

International organization of interdisciplinary professionals, that focuses on promoting innovative strategies for research and practice on behalf of individuals with learning disabilities.

Division for Learning Disabilities

Council for Exceptional Children
1920 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191-1589
Voice: (888) 232-7733; (703) 620-3660
TTY: (703) 264-9446
Fax: (703) 264-9494
E-mail: service@cec.sped.org
Web site: www.cec.sped.org

International professional organization dedicated to improving educational outcomes. The DLD promotes improved services, research, and legislation for individuals with learning disabilities.

International Dyslexia Association

International Office
8600 LaSalle Road
Chester Building, Suite 382
Baltimore, MD 21286-2044
Voice: (800) 222-3123; (410) 296-0232
Fax: (410) 321-5069
E-mail: info@interdys.org
Web site: www.interdys.org

Scientific and educational organization providing general information on dyslexia as well as services, research, technology, policy, training, and other resources. Web site includes an active bulletin board.

Learning Disabilities Association of America

4156 Library Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15234-1349
Voice: (412) 341-1515
Fax: (412) 344-0224
E-mail: ldanatl@usaor.net
Web site: www.ldanatl.org

A listing of state affiliates is available at: www.ldanatl.org/StatePages.shtml

Membership organization that provides information, resources, event updates, and advocacy efforts pertaining to the enhancement of quality of life for individuals with learning disabilities and their families.

National Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA)

1788 Second Street, Suite 200
Highland Park, IL 60035
Voice: (847) 432-ADDA
Fax: (847) 432-5874
E-mail: mail@add.org
Web site: www.add.org

National membership organization which provides information and referral on Attention Deficit Disorder.

National Center for Learning Disabilities

381 Park Avenue South, Suite 1401
New York, NY 10016
Voice: (212) 545-7510; (888) 575-7373
Fax: (212) 545-9665
Web site: www.ncld.org

Provides national information & referral, educational programs, public outreach, legislative advocacy, publications and resources in support of persons with learning disabilities.

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic

The Anne T. MacDonald Center
20 Roszel Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Voice: (800) 221-4792; (609) 452-0606
E-mail: custserv@rfbd.org
Web site: www.rfbd.org

This organization maintains an over 77,000-title library of taped textbooks, reference and professional materials for people who cannot read standard print because of a disability. Materials are inexpensive.


Adapted from NICHCY Fact Sheet Number 7(FS4), 1998

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities

P.O. Box 1492
Washington, DC 20013
E-mail: nichcy@aed.org
web: www.nichcy.org
1-800-695-0285 (Voice/TT)

This fact sheet is made possible through Cooperative Agreement #H030A30003 between the Academy for Educational Development and the Office of Special Education Programs. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsement by the U. S. Government.

This information is in the public domain unless otherwise indicated. Readers are encouraged to copy and share it, but please credit the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY).