Learning Disability

How does IDEA define Learning Disabilities?

IDEA uses the term "Specific Learning Disability". Specific learning disability is defined in IDEA in the following way.

(i) General. The term means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

(ii) Disorders not included. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

Learning disabilities impede the ability to store, process or produce information. It may show up as a problem in a person's ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do math, despite the fact that the child has at least average intelligence. Learning disabilities can also impair a child's ability to build social relationships, since these rely on accurate communication. Learning disabilities can occur along with, and be complicated by, problems in attention.

Common categories of learning disabilities include:

Dyslexia: is a reading disability 
Dyscalculia: causes people to have problems doing arithmetic and grasping mathematical concepts. 
Dysgraphia: is a writing disorder 
Dyspraxia: is a problem with the body's system of motion that interferes with a person's ability to make a controlled or coordinated physical response in a given situation.
Auditory, Memory and Processing Disability: describes problems people have in understanding or remembering words or sounds because their brains fail to understand language correctly.

Common Assistive Technology Devices used by Children with Learning Disabilities

It is most common for children with learning disabilities to have difficulties with reading, writing and math. Children with learning disabilities also sometimes use assistive technology to help them study and learn. Here are some common assistive technology devices used for those functional life skills.

Assistive Technology for Mechanics of Writing

  • Regular pencil/pen
  • Pencil/pen with adaptive grip
  • Adapted paper (e.g. raised line, highlighted lines)
  • Slantboard
  • Use of prewritten words/phrases
  • Templates
  • Portable word processor to keyboard instead of write
  • Computer with word processing software
  • Portable scanner with word processing software
  • Voice recognition software to word process

Assistive Technology for Composing Written Material

  • Word cards/word book/word wall
  • Pocket dictionary/thesaurus
  • Writing templates
  • Electronic/talking electronic dictionary/thesaurus/spell checker (e.g. Franklin Speaking Homework Wiz)
  • Word processing w/ spell checker/grammar checker
  • Talking word processing
  • Abbreviation/expansion Word processing w/ writing support
  • Multimedia software
  • Voice recognition software

Assistive Technology for Reading

  • Standard text at a lower reading level
  • Predictable books
  • Changes in text size, spacing, color, background color
  • Book adapted for page turning (e.g. page fluffers, 3-ring binder)
  • Use of pictures or symbols (rebus) with text
  • Talking electronic dictionary or computer software to pronounce challenging words
  • Single word scanners
  • Scanner with Optical Character Reading software (OCR)and talking word processor
  • Electronic books

Assistive Technology for Math

  • Abacus/ Math Line
  • Enlarged math worksheets
  • Low tech alternatives for answering
  • Math "Smart Chart"
  • Money calculator and Coinulator T
  • actile/voice output measuring devices
  • Talking watches/clocks
  • Calculator /calculator with print out
  • Calculator with large keys and/or large display
  • Talking calculator
  • Calculator with special features (e.g. fraction translation)
  • On-screen/scanning calculator
  • Alternative keyboard programmed for math tasks
  • Software with cueing for math computation (may use adapted input methods)
  • Software for manipulation of objects
  • Voice recognition software

Assistive Technology for Studying and Learning

  • Print or picture schedule
  • Low tech aids to find materials (e.g. index tabs, color coded folders)
  • Highlight text (e.g. markers, highlight tape, ruler, etc.)
  • Recorded material (books on tape, taped lectures with number coded index, etc.)
  • Voice output reminders for assignments, steps of task, etc.
  • Electronic organizers
  • Pagers and electronic reminders
  • Single word scanners
  • Hand-held scanners
  • Software for concept development/manipulation of objects Software for outlining and organization of ideas
  • Palm computers

Other Learning Disability Websites

Learning Disabilities Association

Interactive Guide to Learning Disabilities for Parents, Teachers and Children

National Center for Learning Disabilities

The Schwab Foundation

Resources for People with Learning Disabilities