6 Most Common Learning Disabilities & Symptoms

Close up of schoolboy writing in class
Table of Contents

The thought of potential learning disabilities often makes parents nervous because they can impact their child’s livelihood and chances for success and happiness. They often lead to difficulties with learning new material through traditional methods. However, the good news is that learning disabilities are entirely manageable, and a bright future for your child is not at all out of reach.

You can help your child by providing customized support at home and tailoring teaching methods to cater to their strengths. To implement such strategies, you’ll first need to identify what learning disabilities your child struggle with. Below, we’ve put together a list of the most common learning disabilities, so you can figure out how to best help your child thrive.

What Is Considered a Learning Disability?

In children, learning disabilities are broadly defined as neurological-based processing problems. In other words, different wiring in the brain influences how someone receives or interprets information. More than 7.4% of children live with some kind of learning disability in Australia.

People commonly incorrectly associate learning disabilities with lower intelligence or motivation. However, in actuality, children with learning disabilities tend to be of average or above-average intelligence.

Though disorders like ADHD and Dyspraxia certainly impede learning, they are not considered learning disabilities. They can be treated with medications and behavioral therapies, while learning disabilities typically require some form of instructional adjustment. However, it’s worth noting that 30-50 percent of children with ADHD also have a specific learning disability.

Learning disabilities fall under four categories that reference a particular stage in information processing during learning:

  1. Input
  2. Integration
  3. Storage
  4. Output

(Source: NADC)

Unfortunately, learning disabilities almost always impact someone’s ability to learn simple and complex skills, from reading, writing, and math to organization, abstract reasoning, and memorization. When ignored or mismanaged, learning disabilities can severely inhibit a child’s performance in school and extend beyond academics, influencing their relationships and future careers. 

6 Common Learning Disabilities

Next, we’ll cover six common learning disabilities and how parents and students can overcome the obstacles that may arise from them.

1.    Problems with Reading (Dyslexia)

People with dyslexia have difficulties reading and comprehending text, struggling with word recognition, and spelling. Impaired phonological processing keeps them from distinguishing between similar sounds and understanding how sounds, letters, and words interact.

Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities and typically runs in families.

Other risk factors include:

  • Being born prematurely
  • Having a low birth weight
  • Exposure to brain-altering factors, such as nicotine, drugs, or infection during pregnancy

Dyslexia may also include impaired orthographic processing, interfering with a child’s ability to match sounds with letters and letter combinations accurately. Consequently, those struggling with dyslexia have problems identifying and manipulating elements of the spoken word (i.e., phonemes and syllables) and often have poor reading comprehension skills.

Identifying Signs of Dyslexia

Here are the Signs and Symptoms of Dyslexia across different age ranges. But we have added some general signs and symptoms of Dyslexia in the table below:

Pre-school ageSchool-ageTeens and adults
Late talking.
Slow to learn new words.
Difficulties forming words.
Problems remembering or naming letters, numbers, and colors.
Difficulties learning rhymes
Reading well below expected age level.
Problems processing and understanding what they hear.
Problems finding words or forming answers.
Problems remembering sequences.
Difficulty seeing (or hearing) similarities and differences in letters/wordsTroubles with spelling.
Taking excessively long to complete reading and writing tasks.
Avoiding activities involving reading
Difficulty reading.
Slow and labor-intensive reading and writing.
Problems with spelling
Avoiding activities involving reading
Mispronouncing names or words, trouble retrieving wordsTrouble understanding idioms.
Difficulty summarizing stories.
Struggles with learning languages.
Problems with memorization.
Difficulty doing math.
Taking excessively long to complete reading and writing tasks

(Source: Mayo Clinic)

2.    Difficulty with Mathematics (Dyscalculia)

Focused schoolboy learning maths with an abacus

If your child excessively struggles with understanding numbers and basic mathematical calculations, especially in comparison to other subjects, then they may have the learning disability Dyscalculia. Math is complicated at all levels, from simple calculations to complex concepts. Children often have issues identifying quantities, ordering numbers, or problem-solving.

Up to 7% of elementary students have Dyscalculia. Though it may run in families, no related genes have been discovered.

Signs of Dyscalculia include difficulties with:

  • Following the order of operations
  • Counting and grouping numbers together
  • Approaching math problems
  • Concepts such as measuring, estimating, and time
  • Understanding bigger vs. smaller
  • Counting money or making change
  • Judging speed or distance

If you suspect your child might have the learning disability, Dyscalculia, you can make an appointment with a learning specialist who can conduct a test. An educational or psychosocial test measures the taker’s computational skills, math fluency, mental computation, and quantitative reasoning to make a diagnosis.

3.    Issues with Writing (Dysgraphia)

Close up of schoolboy writing in class

Writing is a prevalent skill used in many aspects of schoolwork and daily life. Described by health insurers and doctors as “an impairment in written expression,” Dysgraphia is characterized by difficulties with fine motor skills, such as penmanship.

Dysgraphia is a nervous system problem associated with brain injury in adults. However, the cause in the case of children is unknown. Either way, the learning disabilities associated with Dysgraphia are very real.

Signs of Dysgraphia include:

  • Struggles with fine motor skills activities
  • Effects person’s handwriting ability, usually expressed as messy handwriting
  • Frequent erasing
  • Tense posture when trying to write
  • Holding writing implements incorrectly
  • Difficulty spacing things within margins (poor spatial planning)
  • Taking a long time to write
  • Struggling to express thoughts with clear sentence structure
  • Speaking out loud while writing
  • Poor spelling or grammar

Children with Dysgraphia may have trouble organizing their thoughts coherently and often struggle to write and think simultaneously. Thus, there may be redundancies in their writing or omissions that would be obvious to someone without Dysgraphia.

If your child has Dysgraphia, they will benefit from additional support from an occupational therapist.  

4.    Challenges with Language & Communication (Aphasia/Dysphasia)

Two female kids stands in the field and talking by using string can phone

Those suffering from language disorders have difficulties expressing ideas with speech, writing, or gestures or understanding verbal communication. Children with Aphasia/Dysphasia may have trouble attaching meaning to sound groups, struggling to utilize words and sentences.

Aphasia/Dysphasia is most commonly associated with brain damage that impairs the area of the brain that turns thoughts into spoken language.

Signs of Aphasia/Dysphasia include:

  • Inability to retell stories
  • Influent speech
  • Difficulty understanding the meaning of words
  • Problems with following directions
  • Struggling to find the right words
  • Appearing mentally confused or illogical
  • Omitting smaller words in speech
  • Speaking in short phrases

Types of Dysphasia

ExpressiveReceptiveGlobal
Affected persons can comprehend what is being communicated to them, but have difficulties communicating what they’re thinking.Affected persons struggle specifically with language, using nonsense words or nonsensical grammar.All forms of language skills are impaired, though not all symptoms have equal severity.

(Source: Sped-SLD)

5.    Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)

As an auditory learning disorder, CAPD affects how the brain processes and interprets sound that travels through the air, resulting in difficulties with understanding speech. Though children with auditory processing disorder can comprehend language, they tend to struggle with differentiating between sounds or where they’re coming from.

Central auditory processing disorder affects 7% of school children. The direct cause isn’t often identifiable; however, there’s evidence that head trauma, lead poisoning, and chronic ear infections may be influencers.

Signs of CAPD include:

  • Being easily distracted or bothered by sudden and loud noises
  • Difficulties with following directions
  • Struggles with following a conversation
  • Getting upset by noisy environments
  • Improved performance or behavior in quieter environments
  • Disorganization and forgetfulness

CAPD can interfere with a student’s ability to follow directions in school and stay focused. They may also struggle to remember information that they need to succeed in a traditional school setting.

6.    Visual Perceptual or Visual Motor Deficit Disorders (VPDs)

Kids eyes

The way a person’s eyes move and brain interpret visual information are integral to how they make sense of visual information. Children with VPDs have trouble interpreting sensory data. Though they often don’t need glasses, the way they perceive the world can cause issues with reading comprehension, information retention, and staying focused—to name a few.

Signs of VPDs include:

  • Inability to take notes or copy information
  • Losing their place while reading or reading sentences multiple times over
  • Closing an eye while reading or working
  • Turning their head to read
  • Frequent eye pain or itching (rubbing eyes)
  • Difficulty navigating locations

Types of Visual Processing Disorders

There are many types of VPDs, and a single case often presents with multiple conditions.

DiscriminationTrouble seeing the difference between similar letters, shapes, or objects
SequencingDifficulty seeing shapes, letters, or words in the correct order
Figure-GroundStruggling to distinguish a shape, letter, or object from the background
Motor ProcessingTrouble coordinating what they see to how they move
MemoryStruggling to remember shapes, symbols, or objects they’ve seen
SpatialTrouble understanding where objects are in space or to each other
Form ConstancyRecognizing shapes as they change in shape and color
ClosureDifficulty identifying objects from fragmented information
ReversalMisidentifying or switching numbers or letters when writing

(Source: Churchill Center & School and St. Louis LDA)

Conclusion

Once you identify the learning disability or any learning disabilities your child might have, the next step is to provide them with the proper support and educational materials. The learning process associated with proper supportive materials specific to the learning disabilities your child has is so important.

In this article, we have gone through 6 learning disorders and learning disabilities. Whether your child struggles with spoken language, reading facial expressions, or phonemic awareness teaching them strategies and managing their learning disability will help them best across the board.

Though learning disabilities can be scary, there’s no need to become distraught or give up. Most of these learning disabilities are perfectly manageable when you implement supportive learning measures. If you suspect that your child may have a learning disability, contact a professional for an official diagnosis.

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