Understanding Common Types of Learning Disabilities

by | All Things SPED, Learning

Ever wonder how it feels to live with one or more common types of learning disabilities? Think about a movie where the main character’s world suddenly turns blurry and distorted.

Life can feel distorted and blurry for someone dealing with learning disabilities.

Imagine going through life coping with letters that jumble up, numbers that just won’t add up, or sounds blending into an incomprehensible buzz. It isn’t easy!

What is worse is that many people don’t know what their specific issue is called. They’ve been told, “You have a learning disability.”

Common Types of Learning Disabilities

But they don’t know the name and this often creates a mental bondage.

As someone who has been dyslexic and a special education teacher for over 20 years, I want you to understand what the specific learning disabilities are—their real names.

In this article, we’ll uncover the real names and often misunderstood issues surrounding common types of learning disabilities.

We’ll explore dyslexia—that tricky disorder that muddles with language processing. We will dive deep into dysgraphia and its impact on writing skills.

Then we will untangle the math mysteries of dyscalculia. Lastly, we will discuss auditory and language processing disorders.

This guide offers tips to spot signs in students and powerful strategies to empower them. So, are you set for the journey?

Table of Contents:

Understanding Types of Common Learning Disabilities

When we talk about learning disabilities, we’re referring to a group of different disorders. Some like to call them learning differences to lessen the stigma often attached.

It’s not as simple as just struggling with schoolwork. The disorders can interfere with the brain’s capacity to take in, process, interpret, and retain information.

Keep in mind that learning disability is a very general term. If a child has a learning disability, my next question would be, which one?

If you can’t answer that question, how can you adequately remediate and treat the learning difference? In most cases, you can’t.

The Nature of Specific Learning Disabilities

A specific learning disability is more than just trouble with reading or math homework. It impacts an individual’s ability to listen, think, speak, and write.

Students with these challenges often have difficulties in multiple areas, like understanding new concepts or remembering previous concepts learned.

Let’s clear up some confusion right away. Despite what you may have heard, learning disabilities are not caused by vision or hearing problems.

They aren’t the result of autism nor do they stem from an intellectual disability. And nope, they don’t come about because of emotional disturbances either.

Hear this one loud and clear: disadvantages in education can’t be blamed for causing them.

Although we know this, many kids are not diagnosed, or some are but don’t have a learning difference.

Misconceptions about Common Types of Learning Disabilities

With a nickel for every learning disability myth, I would be a millionaire. There are that many! Let’s tackle some of these misconceptions head-on.

One big myth is that all people with a learning disability struggle across all subjects at school. That is not true by a long shot.

Those with specific learning disorders typically struggle only in particular areas while doing fine (or even excelling) elsewhere.

Here are a few more:

Kids with learning disabilities are less intelligent.Actually, they have average or above-average intellectual abilities.
They don’t have a learning disability; they’re just lazy.The truth is that they often work harder to compensate for their symptoms.
Boys are more likely than girls to have learning disabilities.Nope! This was debunked. The prevalence is about the same. What is true is that boys are often diagnosed at a higher rate.

I think you have a good understanding of common types of learning disabilities in general. Let’s now get down to the specifics.

Dyslexia: A Common Language-Based Disorder

One of the most common types of learning disabilities is a language-based learning disorder named dyslexia. If you think dyslexia just means reading letters backward, you are way off.

It’s like an intricate puzzle, where each piece represents different aspects of reading and language processing.

It affects roughly one in five students. That means you likely know someone dealing with this challenge right now.

Identifying Dyslexia in Students

Just remember, dyslexia doesn’t pick and choose. No matter who they are, dyslexia can impact anyone.

Imagine trying to put together that intricate puzzle without seeing the picture on the box – that’s what reading can feel like for students with dyslexia.

The struggle might be difficulty linking letters and sounds or recognizing words they’ve seen before. Some might read slowly or avoid reading altogether because it feels too daunting.

Learning disabilities are complex disorders affecting how we receive, process, and store information.

They do not result from vision or hearing problems, autism, intellectual disability, emotional disturbances, or educational disadvantages.

People with these challenges often struggle in specific areas but may excel elsewhere. Dyslexia is a common example of these types of learning disabilities.

Strategies for Supporting Students with Dyslexia

Aiding students who struggle with dyslexic challenges doesn’t require magic spells. It takes tried-and-true strategies tailored specifically to their needs and teaching reading explicitly.

This includes structured literacy programs focused on phonics and the relationship between letters and sounds.

Also, students need multisensory instruction, that is, instruction that engages sight, hearing, touch, and movement all at once.

Providing accommodations is needed. For example, extra time on tests and using audiobooks gives students access to content without getting tripped up by reading difficulties.

If you’re eager to understand these techniques and why they’re effective for learners with dyslexia, give this article a read.

Dysgraphia: The Writing Disorder

Ever attempted to write with your non-dominate hand? If so, then you have a small taste of the challenges faced by individuals living with dysgraphia.

It’s not just about neat handwriting; it’s a disorder that affects spelling, thought organization, and even pencil grip. People don’t realize that there are five types of dysgraphia.

Recognizing Dysgraphia in Students

The signs of dysgraphia can be subtle; in some cases, believe it or not. One student may struggle with getting words onto paper despite having excellent ideas.

Another student might find themselves wrestling more with proper letter formation or spacing than with expressing themselves on paper.

The funny thing, however, is that these students often have no issues expressing themselves verbally.

Classroom Techniques for Assisting Students with Dysgraphia

We need our teaching toolkit brimming with strategies when we’re up against something as sneaky as dysgraphia. Let’s equip ourselves properly to help students.

To start off, encourage typing instead if possible—it eliminates struggles related to physical writing and makes those words flow easier.

LD Online suggests that access to word processing programs can be a game-changer for students with dysgraphia.

Next, let’s give those hands some love. Fine motor skill exercises can strengthen hand muscles and improve grip.

Activities such as playing with clay or even using stress balls are excellent fine-motor workouts.

Dyscalculia: The Math Learning Disability

Picture this: You’re in a math class, but the numbers and equations might as well be hieroglyphics. This is what dyscalculia, a math disorder can feel like.

Like the rest of the common types of learning disabilities discussed in this article, dyscalculia is a specific learning disability.

It impacts your ability to understand and manipulate numbers.

Identifying Dyscalculia in Students

Think of dyscalculia (also known as number dyslexia) as a thief sneaking into the classroom, swiping away a student’s grasp on mathematical concepts.

The question becomes, “How do we catch this thief?” We start by looking for telltale signs.

The first sign could be difficulties with counting. You’d think it’s easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy stuff—until it isn’t. When students struggle to count objects or follow number sequences, it might signal dyscalculia.

We also look out for issues with shapes and patterns—the building blocks of geometry. If kids are having trouble recognizing shapes or spotting patterns, then our culprit may have struck again.

Strategies for Supporting Students with Dyscalculia

No need to panic. While catching dyscalculia early is crucial, so too is knowing how best to support these learners once identified.

  • Create hands-on experiences: Studies show manipulatives such as blocks or beads can make abstract concepts more concrete.
  • Bite-sized lessons: To avoid overwhelming students let them digest new topics one bite at a time.
  • Frequent breaks: This helps prevent mental fatigue which could hinder their progress further.

For more in-depth strategies for dyscalculia check out this article. But remember, each child is unique and might need different support strategies.

Let’s also look at time. Many of us take for granted the ability to understand minutes, hours, days—the concept of time itself. For students with dyscalculia though, this could be another battlefront.

Dyscalculia’s Impact on Adulthood

Have you ever wondered how dyscalculia impacts one’s life into adulthood? Many adults encounter daily difficulties with math as a result of dyscalculia.

For example, money—it’s a critical part of adult life that can sometimes be tricky for people with dyscalculia. Even basic tasks, like giving the right change, can pose challenges.

Learn 10 common symptoms adults with dyscalculia may face at home and outside of school and work by watching this video, 10 Dyscalculia Symptoms in Adults at Home.

Auditory and Language Processing Disorders

Although visual learning disabilities like dyslexia and dysgraphia are often discussed, auditory and language-processing disorders can also impede the learning process. But did you know that auditory and language processing disorders can also be a significant hurdle in learning? Let’s unpack these two lesser-known but impactful conditions.

Understanding Auditory Processing Disorders

An Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), sometimes called Central Auditory Processing Disorder, is when your brain doesn’t properly process sounds.

This is a less talked about common type of learning disability. Nevertheless, this issue isn’t about how well you hear – it’s about what happens to sound after your ears pick it up.

Imagine trying to listen to a podcast while standing in a busy airport terminal with announcements blaring over the loudspeakers; that’s kind of what APD feels like all the time for those who have this disorder. The words are there, but they get lost amidst all other noise.

The impacts on education can be profound as students might struggle with following verbal instructions or understanding spoken information quickly enough in class discussions.

Tackling Auditory Processing Disorders

We’ve established that having an APD makes things tricky, so now let’s explore some practical strategies for dealing with this challenge at school:

  • Create quieter learning environments: Small changes such as using carpeting or wall hangings can reduce background noise which may help kids focus better on listening tasks.
  • Simplify instructions: Breaking down directions into smaller parts gives learners more chance to digest each piece before moving on to the next one.
  • Use visual aids: Graphic organizers, diagrams, flowcharts – anything that puts words into a visual context can be hugely helpful.

Understanding Language Processing Disorders

A Language Processing Disorder (LPD), on the other hand, involves difficulty understanding or putting thoughts into words. It’s like having all your thoughts stuck in traffic on a busy highway – they’re there but just can’t get to where they need to go smoothly.

Key Takeaway: 

Don’t overlook auditory and language processing disorders when considering learning disabilities. These involve challenges in how the brain processes sounds or struggles to put thoughts into words. Help students by creating quieter classrooms, simplifying instructions, and using visual aids for those with Auditory Processing Disorders (APD). For Language Processing Disorder (LPD), patience and tailored strategies are key.

Visual Learning Disabilities: A Closer Look

Visual learning disabilities can create challenges for students, but understanding these conditions is the first step to providing effective help. These disabilities are not simply about having trouble seeing; they involve issues with how visual information is processed and interpreted.

The Complexity of Visual Processing Disorders

A common misconception about visual learning disorders revolves around eyesight. Many believe that if a student has 20/20 vision, they cannot have a visual processing disorder. But this isn’t true because it’s more than just seeing clearly—it involves interpreting what we see.

We often overlook the complexity behind our ability to make sense of visuals. It takes different parts of our brain working together in harmony—a process known as visual processing. If any part doesn’t work right, it may lead to a visual processing disorder.

Symptoms Indicative of Visual Learning Disabilities

Recognizing symptoms indicative of potential problems early on can be critical in getting children the support they need. Signs include difficulties following along when reading or copying from the board—students might lose their place or skip lines unintentionally.

Mixing up letters like ‘b’ and ‘d’, confusing similar-looking words (think “was” versus “saw”), struggling with puzzles or mazes—all could indicate an issue with spatial relation skills—one facet of visual learning disability known as dyslexia.”

Tackling Challenges Posed by Visual Learning Disabilities

Research shows that there are practical strategies to help students with visual learning disabilities. For example, using a ruler or finger as a guide can assist in reading, and graph paper can aid in organizing math problems.

Visual aids like diagrams and flowcharts simplify complex information. Break tasks down into smaller steps and give clear, concise instructions for each one—these methods let children better understand what they need to do.

FAQs Common Types of Learning Disabilities

What are the top 5 learning disabilities?

Dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, auditory processing disorder, and language processing disorder make up the top five.

How do you identify learning difficulties?

You spot them by observing struggles with reading, writing, or math skills that don’t improve over time.

What do people with learning disabilities struggle with?

Folks grapple mostly with academic tasks like reading, writing, or calculating. They may also have trouble organizing thoughts.

What qualifies as a learning disability?

A persistent difficulty in reading, writing, or doing math that affects school performance is considered a learning disability.

Conclusion- Common Types of Learning Disabilities

Living with one or more of the common types of learning disabilities can be hard. But now, you’re better equipped to understand them.

Dyslexia doesn’t have to scramble language processing. With the right strategies, we can help students untangle those linguistic knots.

Dysgraphia may affect writing skills, but by spotting the signs early and using effective techniques, we can assist learners in navigating this challenge.

Math mysteries are no match for our newfound knowledge of dyscalculia. We’ve got tools at hand to support struggling students!

Auditory and language processing disorders don’t have to be barriers either; understanding is power, after all.

I hope you learned a lot about the common types of learning disabilities and how they impact learners.


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