When Sara was in the first grade, her teacher started teaching the
students how to read. Sara's parents were really surprised when Sara had
a lot of trouble. She was bright and eager, so they thought that reading
would come easily to her. It didn't. She couldn't match the letters to
their sounds or combine the letters to create words.
Sara's problems continued into second grade. She still wasn't reading,
and she was having trouble with writing, too. The school asked Sara's
mom for permission to evaluate Sara to find out what was causing her
problems. Sara's mom gave permission for the evaluation.
The school conducted an evaluation and learned that Sara has a learning
disability. She started getting special help in school right away.
Sara's still getting that special help. She works with a reading
specialist and a resource room teacher every day. She's in the fourth
grade now, and she's made real progress! She is working hard to bring
her reading and writing up to grade level. With help from the school,
she'll keep learning and doing well.
What are Learning Disabilities?
Learning disability is a general term that describes specific kinds of
learning problems. A learning disability can cause a person to have
trouble learning and using certain skills. The skills most often
affected are: reading, writing, listening, speaking, reasoning, and
Learning disabilities (LD) vary from person to person. One person with
LD may not have the same kind of learning problems as another person
with LD. Sara, in our example above, has trouble with reading and
writing. Another person with LD may have problems with understanding
math. Still another person may have trouble in each of these areas, as
well as with understanding what people are saying.
Researchers think that learning disabilities are caused by differences
in how a person's brain works and how it processes information. Children
with learning disabilities are not "dumb" or "lazy." In fact, they
usually have average or above average intelligence. Their brains just
process information differently.
The definition of "learning disability" just below comes from the United
States Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA is
the federal law that guides how schools provide special education and
related services to children with disabilities. The special help that
Sara is receiving is an example of special education.
There is no "cure" for learning disabilities. They are life-long.
However, children with LD can be high achievers and can be taught ways
to get around the learning disability. With the right help, children
with LD can and do learn successfully.
IDEA's Definition of "Learning Disability"
The United States special education law, the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act, defines a specific learning disability as .
". . . 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 do mathematical calculations, including
conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain
dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia."
However, learning disabilities do 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." 34 Code of Federal Regulations