Rothman Center for Pediatric Neuropsychiatry

Learning Disabilities

What Encompasses Learning Disabilities?

Learning disability is an umbrella term for specific disabilities (such as dyslexia or ADHD) that interfere with learning basic skills (math, reading) and higher level skills (organization and attention). Individuals with learning disabilities often have difficulty in school, but it is not a result of their intelligence or motivation. Individuals with learning disabilities perceive and process auditory and visual information differently. There are many types of learning disabilities that range from problems with reading, writing, math, motor skills, language, and auditory and visual processing. Common learning disabilities include dyslexia, dyscalculia (difficulty with math), and dysgraphia (difficulty with writing).

What are the causes of this condition?

Researchers do not know exactly what causes learning disabilities, but it is believed to be caused by differences in brain structure and/or functioning. Researchers have found a link to learning disabilities in areas of the brain involved in language. These differences are often inherited and present at birth, but factors such as poor nutrition, exposure to toxins, exposure to teratogens during pregnancy (such as drugs or alcohol), and a lack of necessary support to develop intellectually once a child begins school may be environmental factors associated with learning disabilities. While learning disabilities are typically present from birth, learning disabilities which are acquired later in life may be caused by dementia or a traumatic brain injury.

Learning Disability Symptoms

Learning disabilities are characterized by difficulties with learning, memory, organization, and math/reading/writing skills. There are many signs and symptoms that could be possible indicators of a learning disability. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Short attention span
  • Poor memory
  • Poor reading/writing ability
  • Inability to discriminate numbers/letters/sounds
  • Poor organizational skills
  • Trouble following directions
  • Inconsistent school performance
  • Difficulty dealing with new things in life

Learning Disability Treatment