What are the Different Types of Learning Disabilities?
Are you curious about the different types of learning disabilities that exist or suspect that you or your child may have one of these disabilities? Here's what you should know.
What is a Learning Disability?
Learning disabilities are impairments in one's cognitive processing skills that stem from altered brain function. These changes can impact a person's ability to learn and process numbers, words, or concepts, resulting in difficulties in learning environments and often even everyday life situations as an individual grows older.
Children may have a learning disability affect their education during their younger years, but often, most of these disabilities can be recognized and become well-managed for the long term. However, there are many adults that still struggle with learning disabilities—whether they've been diagnosed or not—and these individuals will often have their job performance, relationships, and other aspects of their adult lives impacted by these alterations in cognition. They may struggle with their finances, organization, planning, punctuality, their ability to pay attention, or having impaired reasoning capabilities. The effects of a learning disability, especially one that is not diagnosed and recognized by the individual unknowingly trying to cope with it, can be far-reaching.
Most individuals who have a learning disability do not have their overall level of intelligence impacted by the differences in their brain's processing skills, and this can cause a good deal of distress because they, as well as those around them, may wonder why they seem to excel at so many tasks yet struggle so significantly in other areas. Without a proper diagnosis, it can become difficult for these individuals to try to make sense of their experiences, and this disconnect can contribute to self-esteem issues, unfair expectations being placed on them by others, and further distress when they appear to function in the same way as others in their age group or current stage of life but have this unrecognized disability affecting certain aspects of their everyday tasks and responsibilities.
It should be noted that learning disabilities are not the same as difficulties with learning and cognition that result from and can be attributed to physical handicaps, intellectual disabilities, hearing or visual conditions, economic disadvantages, and emotional or psychological conditions.
Additionally, learning disabilities are not something that can be "treated" or "cured." These disabilities, however, can be well-managed with the right support system. There are many programs in place to assist children in school as well as provide sufficient support for adults seeking further education or that require accommodations in the workplace.
What are the Different Types of Learning Disabilities?
There are three primary learning disabilities that can impact both children and adults: dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia. There are also other related difficulties that may impact individuals in similar ways.
Often the learning disability that people are most familiar with, dyslexia involves challenges regarding an individual's ability to recognize words. This may cause difficulties with reading, spelling, and processing words in general. Sounds, syllables, and the ability to retain knowledge of letter combinations and their functions may be impaired as well. Most individuals with dyslexia struggle with reading and reading comprehension due to these challenges.
Similar in nature to dyslexia, dyscalculia instead involves difficulties regarding an individual's ability to process numbers. Basic calculations, math-related tasks, and even remembering sequences of numbers are difficult for those with dyscalculia. Considering how often math and numbers are used in one's daily life, this disability can be quite disruptive for those who grow into adulthood and need to manage their time, finances, and work tasks.
The last of the three main learning disabilities is dysgraphia. This disability involves difficulties related to writing abilities, such as poor handwriting, difficulty with writing down one's thoughts on paper, and difficulties with spelling. One of the most recognizable problems associated with dysgraphia is highly variable and sometimes illegible handwriting with inconsistent capitalization, letter shapes, and overall writing style. These individuals may often have trouble with the motor skills associated with the act of writing itself, as well as have significant difficulties trying to think about the task at hand and write at the same time.
Other Learning Disabilities
Although the following conditions are not formally recognized as "learning disabilities" in the same manner as those above, these additional difficulties function quite similarly in the ways in which they may impact a person's learning capabilities, social skills, and ability to tackle everyday life tasks.
Spoken language disorder (oral language disorder)
There are also a number of speech disorders and other conditions that may cause difficulties during a child's developmental years, with some carrying over into adulthood. However, these are not considered learning disabilities although they still involve altered physical capabilities and cognition that may impact a person's ability to communicate as well as process language and information.
How Do You Know If You Have a Learning Disability?
Although the presenting signs of a learning disability will vary based on the specific learning disability that an individual has, most people may suspect one of these disabilities may be the source of some of their difficulties if they or their child are struggling with some of the following concerns:
Difficulties with telling time
Difficulty paying attention
Issues with staying organized
Trouble with math
Trouble with writing
Trouble with reading
Additionally, children and those of younger ages may also struggle with:
Difficulties with listening
Difficulties with expressing their thoughts
Getting easily distracted
Inability to adjust to changes in their environment or schedule
Inconsistent school performance
Struggling to stay focused
Speech issues (leaving out words from their sentences, using very short phrasing, etc.)
Trouble with pronunciation
Trouble understanding certain concepts
Trouble with understanding words
Although many of these signs are typically good indicators of underlying learning disabilities, you or your child will need to be tested by a specialist to determine the root cause of the difficulties in the above-listed scenarios. Not all signs will be present in those who do have learning disabilities, and individual experiences will vary.
Parents that suspect their children may have a learning disability should consult with their child's pediatrician to be directed to the proper specialists to help determine a diagnosis. These individuals will also work with the child's school (if applicable) to acquire more information and make an accurate diagnosis.
Adults that suspect they may have a learning disability have quite a few options for finding a professional that provides assessments for adult learning disabilities. More information can be found on the Learning Disabilities Association of America website to help walk you through the process.