Learning disabilities (LD)—what they are (and what they are not)—continue to be a source of confusion for many people. Here are some key facts to keep in mind:
What Is a Learning Disability?
- A learning disability is a biological “processing” problem that impairs a person's ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell and do math calculations.
- There are several types of LD based on the type of difficulties involved. Dyslexia, a problem with reading, is the most common.
- Learning disabilities have a genetic component and often run in families.
- LD is a lifelong disability. Children don't grow out of it. They may learn to compensate for their LD, but it's something they continue to live with as adults.
- LD is does not include visual, hearing or motor disabilities.
- LD is not caused by intellectual or cognitive disabilities (formerly referred to as mental retardation), emotional disturbance, or cultural, environmental, or economic disadvantage.
How Are Learning Disabilities Diagnosed?
- Proper identification (diagnosis) of LD in K-12 students involves: parent and child interviews; classroom observation; a review of the child's educational and medical history; a series of tests to identify the child's strengths and weaknesses; the gathering of information from teachers and other professionals who work with the child.
- There is no medical test (such as a blood test) for LD.
- LD often co-exists with other neurological disorders such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This can make diagnosis/identification of the disabilities tricky.
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