Specific Learning Disorder ( A Comprehensive Guide)


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Page last updated: 12/10/2022

Specific Learning Disorder

A specific learning disorder is a psychological disorder.

According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM5), the term specific learning disorder refers to one or more disorders that are mainly related to the language and understanding spoken and written in any individual.

This disorder is mainly related to the children. There are different symptoms of specific learning disorder which also reveals from the name of the disorder.

The symptoms are mainly related to the children’s capacity to listen properly, think, speak, write, and spell.

The children are also unable to do and understand mathematical and geometrical concepts.

Often children face difficulty in algebra also considered in the specific learning disorder.

In this article, we will discuss specific learning disorders. 

Specific learning disorder also is known as a neurological disorder.

This is a neurodevelopmental disorder that initiates from the start of the age of school but it is recognized late, might be some individual diagnosed from this in the age of adulthood.

The parents and family members often did not recognize the symptoms of this disorder and identify that there is an issue occurring with the children.

There are major difficulties that we can recognize when we are observing the child.

There are three main areas in which problems occur: problems in reading, difficulty in writing, and doing math.

This is the basic foundational ability to assess specific learning disorders.

According to an estimate, approximately 5 to 15 percent of school-going children struggle with the learning problem and can be diagnosed as a specific learning disorder.

Approximately, 80 percent of the population who have a learning problem specifically those who have the reading disorders are specifically referred to as dyslexia.

The children who have specific learning disorders also have the symptoms of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The hyperactivity and the lack of attention are easily diagnosed due to the severity of the symptoms but cannot be diagnosed with specific learning disorder.

The main other domains which have the great impact on the grooming of student’s ability are given meaning to own words in the form of words, write your thoughts, creative writing, to read comprehensive material, to understand the meaning of the words which reads, try to calculate the objects, learn small and long things, difficulty to learn the history and long science questions.

The problems in the domains are called specific learning disorders. 

These impairments are observed in the daily activities of children and in adulthood.

Specific learning disorders are very necessary to manage and assess at a very initial level.

The individual if remains not diagnosed it might become the cause of the problem in the overall life of any individual.

The impact of these problems remained in the life of the individual and his functioning decreased at almost all the levels of life.

The problem may cause further impairment of other domains of the individual such as due to these reasons the individual suffers in great distress, psychological well-being has been affected to the individual which might cause other health-related problems.

The other problems include unemployment, anxiety, lack of self-esteem, lack of confidence, and dropping out of school.

Specific Learning Disorder ( A Comprehensive Guide)

Description of specific learning disorders:

The psychological assessment of the problems described in the above is assessed and after the approval of these symptoms the individual is diagnosed as a “learning disorder”.

The term “specific learning disability” is a term used by both the educational and legal systems as well as the medical system.

It is often called “learning disability”. If one of the individuals is diagnosed with a specific learning disorder, it might be possible that the individual has a problem with specific problems in specific areas but not in all domains.

Although when an individual gets a diagnosis of learning disability, it refers to the problem in all domains either for writing or learning or any difficult subject.

Both terms are legally and educationally acceptable and used for the diagnosis after the proper psychological assessment.

Another term “learning difference” is a term that is also used in a variety of cases after assessment, when especially talk to the children about their difficulties either in any one subject or more than one subject but the important aspect of this term is that it is not labeled as “disordered”.

Diagnosis of specific learning disorders

Specific learning disorder assessment can be done at any stage of the student’s life but the proper diagnosis can be done after formal education starts.

For diagnosis, the individual must meet the criteria of the below-mentioned symptoms and the duration of the symptoms must be at least six months.

·         An individual have the difficulty in reading such as inaccurate, slow and needs much effort

·         An individual has difficulty understanding the meaning of words they read or what they comprehend.

·         The individual face difficulty with spelling

·         Individuals have the problem in a written expression such as grammatical mistakes, punctuation, or sentence organization.

·         The individual face difficulty in understanding the concepts such as math or physics numerical

·         The individual has the difficulty in understanding the reasoning

·         The individual lacks the skills which are necessary according to his or her age or perform the activities below the age requirements.

The problem occurs in all activities of the children such as in school or work or in the daily life activities. This is called adaptive behavior.

·         Some individuals do not show the difficulty at the start of the school, even some individuals do not face any severe difficulty at the age of adulthood.

They show their symptoms when the academic activities and day to day work demands are greater. 

·         The difficulties in specific learning disorders and learning difficulties are not due to other conditions such as intellectual disability, vision problems, or hearing impairment.

Any other neurological condition or any side effects of severe illness or any neurological condition or other psychosocial factors such as economic and environmental disadvantage, lack of instruction or difficulty in speaking or understanding the language.

The individual’s diagnosis is a combination of psychological assessment and professional observation with the history in school and family reports.

Proper interviews are conducted to explore the factors to explore the symptoms of the problem.

Neurological and psychological testing used for specific learning disorders.

Types of specific Learning Disorders

There are different types of learning disorders and assessments done to know about the specific learning disorder.

The general types of disorder are:

1.      Dyslexia

The problem refers to the difficulty with reading.

The students are not able to connect the words, they see them separate and cannot make them one word.

They need a lot of effort to make a word with their sounds. This effort takes time and they consume time to pronounce one word.

The result occurs in the form of a problem in reading the content. Thus the fluency to read is called dyslexia.

The problem can be recognized when any student starts their learning or starts to pronounce the words of the books.

We can recognize through examples such as: when children have difficulty in breaking the words into the syllables and recognize the word that rhyme.

The children might not be able to recognize or pronounce the words which the other age fellows of the specific student can pronounce easily and take no effort.

The individual with dyslexia has difficulty inaccuracy or spelling the words.

This is a common misconception of all the children that those children who write the letters backward are suffering from dyslexia.

The adolescents, adults can also be diagnosed with dyslexia, we can recognize them as they try to avoid the activities which are involved in reading when they should be done.

They often skip that point of reading in front of others and gathering.

They often gravitate to other mediums such as pictures, video, or audio.

2.      Dyscalculia

This is another disorder that is most common in the learning disability.

The individual, adults, students who have the difficulty in learning the numbers and face the difficulty related to the concepts which are associated with the numbers, and the calculations are called dyscalculia.

The numbers with problems are in a variety of ranges in which difficulties with number sense, memorizing math facts, math calculations, math reasoning, and math problem solving are included.

Specific Learning disorder can vary in severity:

  • Mild: the specific learning disorder might be in one or two academic areas and in the other they can perform properly and adequately. It is the mild form of specific learning disorder.
  • Moderate: the significant difficulties in the learning, acquire extra assistance in learning and individual need extra assistance and supportive services to perform all academic and everyday activities
  • Severe: Severe difficulties with learning, affecting several academic areas and requiring ongoing intensive specialized teaching.

Myths about a specific Learning disorder 

1.       Myth: The students who are smart and active do not have any specific learning disorder 

Fact: Specific learning disabilities and intelligence Quotient is not related to the active and smartness.

Most of the students with specific learning disorders such as those who are struggling with reading, writing, or math are bright and successful students.

2.  Myth: All types of specific learning disorder diagnoses are the same.

Fact: “Specific learning disability” is an umbrella term that can describe many different types of learning issues including dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia.

Different types of specific learning disabilities require different assessments and treatment aspects.

3.  Myth: Specific learning disorders are rare in the students

Fact: According to the National Institutes of Health, around 10-15% of school-aged children have a specific learning disability.

Specific Learning Disorders: Risk Factors

There are different risk factors that are associated with specific learning disorders.

There are bio-psycho-social factors that are associated with every child and it is recognized in the assessment of history taking.

There are some in which a child with a first-degree relative with a learning disorder in reading or mathematics is at a significantly higher risk of developing one.

Thus the important thing is that the specific learning disorder is not caused by a lack of intelligence.

FAQ about specific learning disorders

1.  What becomes the cause of a specific learning disability?

Specific learning disability is due to the development of the brain.

Often the specific reason is not known and different factors can be included.

There are different causes in which: An inherited condition, meaning that certain genes passed from the parents affected the brain development, for example, Fragile X.

2.   Is Anxiety disorder included in the learning disability?

Students with learning disabilities expressing their feelings of anxiety can be difficult.

For those who have limited communication skills, this can result in behaviors that are understood as challenging and not accredited to anxiety.

3. What is a specific learning disability?

Specific learning disability” means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, they have difficulty in the listening, thinking, speaking, reading, writing, spell or to do mathematical calculations or any school or every day based activities are included.


American Psychiatrist Association: What Is Specific Learning Disorder?

www.churchillstl.org: What is a Specific Learning Disability?

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