Learning disabilities (DSM-5 Specific Learning Disorder; SLD) are a set of neurodevelopmental disorders that impact a child’s ability to perform at age-expectancy in academic settings. Learning challenges have a biological origin that make it difficult for individuals to learn basic academic skills. Up to 15% of school-aged children and teens have a learning disability. The most common type of learning disability is related to reading skills.
Basic academic skills not mastered when a child has a learning disability can include:
- reading single words accurately and fluently
- reading comprehension
- written expression and spelling
- writing content
- math reasoning and number sense
- phonological processing.
A common misconception is that children will simply “catch up” to their peers and that they will out grow their learning challenges. However, this is often not the case. Children with learning disabilities need specialized attention to develop academic mastery. In particular, recognizing an SLD early on is important because adults can suffer later in life from learning disabilities that have gone undetected.
In early school grades, parents and teachers may start to notice differences in the way a child processes information. They may notice that they are not performing as well as their peers and that they are falling behind. The learning disability, however, may not appear until the later elementary grades (4th and up) for many children. When academic material becomes more demanding and outweighs a child’s strengths, patterns begin to emerge in their homework and classwork that can reveal a learning challenge.
Three common types of learning disabilities related to basic academic skills are:
- Dyslexia (Specific Learning Disorder with impairment in reading)
- Dysgraphia (Specific Learning Disorder with impairment in written expression)
- Dyscalculia (Specific Learning Disorder with impairment in mathematics)
Teachers often recognize a reading issue, or dyslexia, in kindergarten. More commonly, however, teachers and parents recognize dyslexia in the 4th grade when academic demands begin to outweigh skills. When children have challenges with sounding out words (phonological processing) in addition to reading comprehension, they tend to struggle the most with reading skills.
Problems with handwriting, spelling, and remembering letter sequences of common words are signs of dysgraphia. This can be recognized and diagnosed as early as the 1st grade. Dysgraphia can go undiagnosed until later when the demands outweigh the child’s skills set.
Mathematics disorder, otherwise known as dyscalculia, affects approximately 1% of school children. Difficulties in this area are observed in a child’s abilities to understand time, use money, complete simple math equations, and sequence numbers. Furthermore, the child may make additions, substitutions, transpositions, omissions and reversals during math equations. This learning disability is generally diagnosed in 3rd or 4th grade.
Ruling out anxiety, attention challenges, and auditory processing disorder is important. The untrained testing clinician may confuse these challenges with a learning disability. Therefore, it is important to evaluate the child’s complete set of strengths and weaknesses to capture their accurate underlying learning difficulty. Additionally, if parents request an IEP or 504 Plan, the school district will base their decisions on recent evaluations to create academic accommodations.
We support families with therapy and counseling in the following San Diego County zip codes and more: 92008, 92009, 92010, 92011, 92023, 92024, 92078, 92081, 92082, 92084, 92085, 92054, 9056, 92083, 92013, 92018, 92055, 92007, 92128, 92069, 92078, 92079, 92096, 92075,
Our families travel to receive therapy and interventions from all around San Diego, including Carlsbad, San Marcos, Escondido, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, Del Mar, San Diego, Oceanside, Vista, Poway, Temecula and Rancho Bernardo, and San Elijo Hills.