Harper Jefcoat
Harper Jefcoat

Learning Disabilities and Disorders - Causes & Symptoms

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Learning Disabilities

On This Page

  • What are Learning Disabilities?
  • Types of Learning Disabilities
  • Signs and Symptoms of Learning Disabilities
  • Causes of Learning Disabilities
  • Learning Disabilities Risk Factors
  • Diagnosis and Testing for Learning Disabilities
  • Learning Disabilities Treatment
  • Other Strategies to Manage Learning Disabilities

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, one in four people struggles with mental disorders in their lives. They can be elders or youngsters. However, many children may also struggle with different topics and skills in school.

When they try hard but face difficulties in one or more learning areas, it is a sign of learning disorders. Such students feel frustrated and may end up being helpless or withdrawn.

Moreover, these learning disabilities may also get combined with other emotional or behavioral disorders. Therefore, proper diagnosis of each condition is crucial to get the right kind of help.

Check out this guide to understand different types of learning disorders in psychology with their symptoms and causes.

What are Learning Disabilities?

Learning disabilities or disorders are used as umbrella terms for several learning problems. It is a kind of neurological disorder that can be defined in practical, legal, or medical terms. However, all three definitions share a common theme.

As per the learning disability definition, it is a disorder in psychological processes that causes difficulty in certain areas of learning. Let’s have a look at the following three definitions of common learning disabilities.

  1. Practical Definition

    Practically, this disorder is referred to as specific learning disabilities covering different neurologically based conditions in learning. Moreover, other terms used for these disorders include minimal brain damage and minimal brain dysfunction.

    It can vary from individual to individual and has nothing to do with intelligence and motivation. Similarly, they are not emotional disturbances, sensory impairments, or intellectual disabilities.

  2. Medical Definition

    The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) includes a Neurodevelopmental Disorders section. It contains a category for a specific disability defined as difficulties in reading, writing, and math expressions.

  3. Legal Definition

    According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), learning disabilities means difficulty understanding or using a language. It can affect the ability to speak, think, listen, write, read, spell or solve math sums. Similarly, it is also discussed that this lifelong issue cannot be cured or fixed.

Types of Learning Disabilities

Below-given are different types of learning disabilities.


Dyslexia is known as a language processing disorder that affects grammar, reading comprehension, and writing abilities. The major symptoms of this learning disability include difficulty in decoding words, phonemic awareness, and identifying sounds of words.


Patients with Dysgraphia face difficulty while converting their thoughts and ideas into writing or drawing. It can be in terms of spelling, grammar, critical thinking, or memory. The major symptoms of this disorder are poor handwriting, letter spacing, and poor motor planning.


This type of learning disability is also known as math dyslexia. Sufferers of the disorder struggle with math calculations, numbers, concepts, and reasoning. Similarly, they also face difficulty telling time, counting money, solving mental math, remembering math facts, and identifying patterns.

Auditory Processing Disorder

In auditory processing disorder, the brain misinterprets the information received and processed from the ears. Here, the patients face difficulties in processing sounds. They often confuse the order of sounds like the background voice vs. a teacher’s voice.

Language Processing Disorder

It is considered a subset of auditory processing disorder. Here, people face difficulties while attaching meaning to sound groups that form sentences, stories, and words. Moreover, it also poses challenges in processing spoken language.

Nonverbal Learning Disabilities

This learning disability poses challenges in decoding nonverbal behaviors or social cues. Here, the patients struggle with comprehending facial expressions, body language, voice tone, and nonverbal ways of communication.

Visual Processing Disorder

People having this disability face issues in hand and eye coordination. They often lose places while reading and have trouble controlling pencils, glue, colors, and scissors. Other symptoms include confusion between similar-looking letters, navigating surroundings, and demonstrating unusual eye activity while reading or writing.

Signs and Symptoms of Learning Disabilities

The learning disability symptoms can vary according to the different age groups. These are discussed below in detail.

Preschool Age

  • Trouble to find the right word
  • Problems while pronouncing words
  • Trouble learning numbers, shapes, alphabets, colors, and the days of the week
  • Difficulty while learning routines or following directions
  • Difficulty to control pencil or scissors
  • Difficulty in rhyming
  • Difficulty to color within the lines
  • The trouble with tying shoes or buttons
  • Difficulty with reversing letters, words, or numbers

Age Group of 5-9 Years

  • Trouble to learn the connections between sounds and letters
  • Difficulty in blending sounds while making words
  • Confuse basic words when reading
  • Difficulty while learning new skills
  • Problems in learning spellings, Id basics, and maths concepts
  • Difficulty in telling time and remembering sequences

Age Group of 10-13 Years

  • Difficulty in comprehension and maths problems
  • Poor handwriting
  • The trouble with written expression and reading
  • Avoid reading aloud
  • The trouble with understanding discussion
  • Difficulty while presentations and expressing ideas
  • Spells the same word incorrectly in a single writing piece
  • Difficulty with telling directions
  • Poor organizational skills

Causes of Learning Disabilities

Medical experts say that there is no single and specific cause of learning disabilities in adults or children. It can be something that affects the brain’s development and functioning. The following are some of the potential factors that can cause a learning disability.

Continue reading to get a detailed description of these causes.


The major cause of this disability can be an inherited condition. It is commonly observed that a child whose parents suffer from learning disorders is likely to develop the same condition. It is because certain genes passed from the parents can affect the child’s brain development.

Injury During or After Birth

An injury or illness during or after birth can also cause learning disorders. It may include chromosome abnormalities such as Down or Turner syndrome. Here are some possible factors for this condition:

  • Alcohol or drug consumption during pregnancy
  • Physical trauma
  • Low birth weight
  • Mother’s illness during pregnancy
  • A premature birth
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain
  • Prolonged labor

Stress During Infancy

Another cause can be a stressful incident after birth or during early childhood. It may include high fever, head injury, child abuse, poor nutrition, or lack of mental stimulation.

Environmental Factors

These include increased exposure to toxins or dangerous materials like lead or harmful radiation.


Sometimes children with learning disabilities also suffer from two or more mental conditions. It can be attention problems, disruptive behavior disorders, or depression.

It is estimated that almost 30% of sufferers have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other sensory disorders.

Learning Disabilities Risk Factors

Learning disabilities have significant impacts on a child’s life, especially if it is not properly diagnosed or treated. Here are some potential risk factors of this disorder that can affect different areas of your life.

Academic Challenges

Adults or children with learning disorders struggle in all areas of their academic life. It can cause trouble while reading and writing. Similarly, memory issues can also result in students rereading a text or listening to instructions several times. They may also need more time to process information while answering questions during class discussions.

Furthermore, children with attention deficit disorder face difficulty maintaining focus and paying attention to a specific thing for a long time. Lastly, their planning and organizational skills also get affected when submitting an assignment on time.

Social and Employment Challenges

People living with this disability find it difficult to control, plan or manage different scenarios. Therefore, they are unable to maintain relationships, friendships, or employment.

Here, each patient needs to understand their strengths and weaknesses. This is how they can explain their needs to others better to ensure social and personal growth.

Depression and Frustration

Students with learning disabilities experience anxiety, social isolation, frustration, shame, and lack of confidence every day. Such situations have serious psychological implications and create a negative self-image or behavioral problems. Moreover, the individuals get hardly motivated to learn as they do not get praise very often.

Damage to Self-Esteem

A learning disorder not only affects a child’s behavior but can also pose great damage to their self-esteem. The following are the factors that can contribute to low self-esteem.

  • Patients of this disorder find it difficult to ask for help with peer-related situations.
  • They lack the emotional and social skills required to handle peer pressure.
  • They get subjected to bullying from friends or colleagues.
  • They struggle to interact with the teachers.
  • They face trouble expressing their thoughts.

Diagnosis and Testing for Learning Disabilities

Diagnosing learning disabilities is a complex procedure. Typically, such disorders can be identified and diagnosed with the help of the following tests conducted by the school staff.

Intelligence Tests

Intelligence tests are often referred to as IQ tests. It includes the following assessments to evaluate a child’s mental health.

  • Comprehensive Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (CTONI)
  • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS)
  • Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test
  • Differential Abilities Scales (DAS)
  • Woodcock-Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities
  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC)
  • Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence

The findings of these tests help to identify the strengths and weaknesses. With this, the schools may recommend other special education services.

Achievements Tests

An achievement test focuses on evaluating a child’s reading, writing, and math. The assessment modules come under these tests include:

  • Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT)
  • Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT)
  • Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement (WJ)
  • Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (KTEA)

If the child has difficulty in understanding a subject area, schools can offer additional support to help him.

Visual-Motor Integration Tests

Such a test is used to determine if the patient’s brain is connecting visual signs to motor coordination properly. It includes the following tests.

  • Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration
  • Bender Visual-Motor Gestalt Test

If the student faces trouble integrating visual and motor skills, it is not possible for him to write and draw.

Language Tests

It is used to analyze a child’s capability to understand written and spoken language and respond to the questions. Here are the common language tests used to diagnose learning disabilities:

  • Test of Language Development
  • Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation
  • Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF)

Medical experts can also carry out other tests depending on the child’s symptoms. Once the testing for diagnosis is complete, the special staff and teachers will review the results. With this, they can determine if it meets the criteria for learning disabilities.

The following specialists can help you treat and diagnose a learning disability.

  • Clinical Psychologist - The clinical psychologist will conduct the IQ tests to determine the child’s intellectual functioning.
  • Counselor - A counselor helps to understand the behavioral issues and the causes behind them.
  • Special Educator - He assesses the student’s academic performance in writing, reading, spelling, and maths.
  • Child Psychiatrist - He checks for other disorders like ADHD that may coexist with a learning disability.
  • Pediatrician - He records a detailed neurological history and analyzes the child’s performance in school.

Learning Disabilities Treatment

Mental health doctors usually recommend the following types of treatments to deal with learning disabilities.

Extra Help

The parents can hire an educational expert, reading specialist, or math tutor for their child. They can help him to improve the academic and organizational skills.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

The schools can develop an IEP for children to meet specific criteria of learning disorders. It is also used to set learning goals and determine strategies to assist the child’s learning in the institute.


Another way is to organize classroom accommodation for the children having such disorders. It includes the following elements:

  • Giving more time to complete tests or assignments
  • Being seated near instructors
  • Using advanced applications to support writing and math calculations
  • Providing audiobooks to support reading activities


Different types of therapies are also used to deal with the symptoms of learning disabilities. It may include occupational therapy to improve the motor skills of the patients having writing problems.

Similarly, speech-language therapy can also be conducted to address language issues. Other alternative therapies such as music, art, and dance can also be beneficial.


The doctor may recommend certain medications to manage anxiety, stress, or depression. It can improve the child’s concentration and performance in schools. Furthermore, other complementary treatments such as eye exercises, dietary changes, and vitamins are also effective.

Keep in mind; the treatment plan evolves over time. If the patient is not making any progress, he can request additional treatments or revisions to an IEP.

Other Strategies to Manage Learning Disabilities

Other strategies to help you deal with the symptoms of learning disabilities are as follows:

  • Learn about the learning disability type that your child is having. Also, find out how it is affecting cognitive and learning skills.
  • Research about the effective treatments, theories, and services available to treat the condition. It will help you pursue the treatment early.
  • If you don’t have enough resources to cure your child’s disorder, pursue the treatment on your own at home.
  • Patients with such disorders struggle in one subject area, but they may excel in another. Thus, pay close attention to your child’s passion and interests and help him to work on his strengths.
  • Keep an emotional support animal to deal with your mental disorders in a better way. They provide a sense of comfort and build confidence in patients.

The first and foremost thing is to get a valid ESA letter. It is a prescription from a mental health provider that specifies your disability. It also makes you eligible to live and travel with a support animal.

If you are looking to get a professionally written ESA letter within just 24 hours, contact us at RealESALetter.com now.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the IQ of someone with a learning disability?

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A person with an IQ of less than 20 is usually suspected of having a profound learning disability. However, a person with an IQ of 20-24 is prescribed to have a severe learning disorder.

Is working memory a learning disability?

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Yes, working memory is a type of learning disability. Patients with this disorder face difficulty in organizing and integrating new skills or knowledge.

What is not considered a learning disability?

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Below-given disorders are considered as learning disabilities:

  • Intellectual Disabilities
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Low Intelligence Quotient

What is the difference between a learning disability and a learning difficulty?

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A learning disability is a condition that affects learning and intelligence in all areas of life. In contrast, a learning difficulty creates challenges in a specific area of learning. However, it does not affect the overall IQ of the patient.

How common is a learning disability?

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According to a recent study, about 10% of the students in the United States have been classified to have a learning disorder.

Harper Jefcoat


Harper Jefcoat

Harper Jefcoat is a dedicated pet enthusiast and expert author at the RealESALetter.com. With a deep-seated passion for animals, Harper brings a wealth of knowledge and personal experience to his writings. Specializing in canine behavior and wellness, he aims to help pet owners understand and care for their furry friends better.

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