What is a specific learning disorder?
A specific learning disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that presents difficulties in learning and using academic skills, despite the provision of interventions that target those difficulties. The affected academic skills are substantially and quantifiably below those expected for the individual’s chronological age and interfere with academic performance. Learning difficulties for these individuals may be mild, moderate or severe and may manifest fully when the demand for academic skills exceeds the individual’s limited capacities (e.g. timed tests, reading or writing lengthy reports, heavy academic loads, etc.).
Symptoms & common characteristics
- Inaccurate or slow and effortful word reading.
- Difficulty understanding the meaning of what is read.
- Difficulties with spelling.
- Difficulties with written expression.
- Difficulties mastering number sense, number facts, or calculation.
- Difficulties with mathematical reasoning.
- Specific learning disorders can interfere with a person’s ability to store, process or produce information and create a “gap” between one’s ability and performance. They are invisible and lifelong.
- Individuals are generally of average or above-average intelligence.
- Affects one’s ability to read, write, speak, compute math and can impede social skills.
- Individuals with specific learning disorders can have marked difficulties on certain types of tasks while excelling at others.
- Specific learning disorders are NOT the same as the following disabilities: developmental delay, autism, deafness, blindness or behavioral disorders.
- It is estimated that one in ten people in BC from all age, ethnic and social groups are affected by learning disabilities.
Common types of specific learning disorders with DSM-5 coding
315.00 With impairment in reading:
- Word reading accuracy
- Reading rate or fluency
- Reading comprehension
Dyslexia – is an alternate term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding, and poor spelling abilities and language processing. People with dyslexia have trouble distinguishing or separating sounds in the spoken word.
315.2 With impairment in written expression:
- Spelling accuracy
- Grammar and punctuation accuracy
- Clarity or organization of written expression
Dysgraphia (Developmental writing disorder) – this disorder includes difficulties with syntax, visual, audio and difficulty writing legibly.
315.1 With impairment in mathematics:
- Number sense
- Memorization of arithmetic facts
- Accurate or fluent calculation
- Accurate math reasoning
Dyscalculia – is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of difficulties characterized by problems processing numerical information, learning arithmetic facts, and performing accurate or fluent calculations. Involves difficulty with math skills in memory and computation.
Centre for Accessibility support for specific learning disorders may include
- Note-taking services
- Alternate format materials (texts in PDF/E-text)
- Exam accommodations (i.e. extended time, alternate setting, computer use, reader/scribe, calculator)
- Applications for funded learning supports/technology
- According to Statistics Canada, more children in this country have a learning disability than all other types of disabilities combined.
- According to Statistics Canada, more than half a million adults in this country live with a learning disability, making it more challenging for them to learn in universities and colleges, and on the job.
- Learning disabilities frequently co-occurred with other types of disability: 96.3% of respondents who reported a learning disability also reported at least one other type of disability. The pattern of co-occurrence varied by age. Mental health-related disabilities had the highest rate of co-occurrence for adults aged 15 to 24 with a learning disability, while physical disability had the highest rate of co-occurrence for adults aged 25 and older.
Burgstahler, S.E., & Cory, R.C. (Eds.) (2008). Universal Design in Higher Education. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Education Press.