Specific Learning Disorder

Specific Learning Disorder

Specific Learning Disorders (SLDs) are defined as “heterogeneous group of conditions wherein there is a deficit in processing language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself as a difficulty to comprehend, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations.

When can we say the child is having a specific learning disorder?

  1. Children who have average to above average intellectual abilities.
  2. They are facing difficulties in learning academic skills such as reading, mathematics and writing despite exposure to a “normal” teaching environment.
  3. Their learning problems are not secondary to – visual, hearing, motor handicaps, intellectual development disorder, and emotional disturbance, cultural or economic disadvantage.

Special Learning Disorder

Types of Learning Disabilities

DYSLEXIA (Reading disability is the most common Learning Disorder (LD), accounting for at least 80% of all LDs.

Some features one can observe

  • Difficulty learning the alphabet. 
  • Difficulty with word retrieval or naming problems.
  • Difficulty identifying words, or counting syllables in words.
  • Difficulty distinguishing different sounds in words.
  • Difficulty in learning the sounds of letters. 
  • Difficulty associating individual words with their correct meaning.
  • Child reads by guessing, reads the word backward e.g. (on for no), misreading (put for but)
  • Confusing with combinations of words.


For example, The brown dog was quick and fast. 

The drown bog was quick and fast. (Letter Confusion) 

Th ebro wnd ogwa squick an dfa st.  (Random Spacing) 

Teh brown ogd was qiuke adn fast (Word-Letter Mixture)

DYSCALCULIA is generally characterized by difficulty in learning or understanding mathematical operations. 

  • Difficulty identifying number patterns eg. Place value, quantity, positive or negative value, carrying/borrowing
  • Difficulty understanding and doing word problems
  • Difficulty sequencing information or events
  • Difficulty using steps in math operations
  • Has hard time grasping information shown on graphs or charts
  • Lacks confidence in activities that require estimating speed and distance
  • Struggles to apply math concepts to everyday life
  • Has trouble measuring things
  • Difficulty reading analog clocks
  • Difficulty in finding which of two numbers is larger
  • Issues in sequencing things
  • Difficulty with multiplication, subtraction, addition, and division tables, mental arithmetic, etc.
  • Difficulty with time, directions, recalling schedules.

Read the following numbers as

 21 = 12     6 = 9

5007 as “five hundred seven”

576 as “five seven six”


DYSGRAPHIA affects writing abilities (difficulty in expressing thoughts in writing).

  • Poor or slow handwriting. 
  • Mixture of cursive and print writing, Mixing of upper case and lower case letters
  • Difficulty copying
  • Misuse of lines and margins on the paper
  • Saying words out loud while writing.
  • Concentrating so hard on writing that comprehension of what’s written is missed.
  • Trouble thinking of words to write, trouble putting thoughts on paper.  
  • Large gap between written ideas and understanding demonstrated through speech
  • Poor spelling, missing words/letters
  • Writing letters in wrong order eg. Cihld for child, reversal of letters (b for  d), inversion of letters(u for n), mirror writing (no for on), omission (wet for went), 
  • Difficulty understanding the relationship between sounds, spoken words and written letters
  • Frequent erasing
  • Poor spatial planning of sentences and margins, inconsistent letter and word spacing
  • Cramped grip, sore hand
  • Difficulty in:
    • Holding paper with one hand while writing with the other
    • Holding and controlling a pencil or other writing tool
    • Putting the right amount of pressure on the paper with a writing tool
    • Maintaining the right arm position and posture for writing

Treatment: Getting Help

Specific learning disorders can be successfully managed throughout one’s life. People with specific learning disorders can go on to become skilled learners and may be able to build on strengths for example, are often particularly creative and able to think outside-of-the-box.

Early intervention is key for people with specific learning disorder. If problems are identified early, intervention can be more effective, and children can avoid going through extended problems with schoolwork and related low self-esteem.

Assessment of children with SLD by a team of trained professionals which includes child psychiatrist, psychologist is very important. The assessment may include multiple sessions of psychological testing along with detailed interview with parents and review of child’s school work (notebooks, answer sheets, homework copies etc.)

Special education services can help children with learning difficulties improve reading, writing and math.  Effective interventions involve systematic, intensive, individualized instruction that may improve the learning difficulties and/or help the individual use strategies to compensate for their disorder. Education for a person with learning disorders often involves multimodal teaching – using multiple senses.

Medications may be indicated for comorbid disorders such as ADHD and anxiety. Research has shown that the most effective treatments for reading disorder are structured, targeted strategies that address phonological awareness, decoding skills, comprehension and fluency.

Treatments for writing problems are in two general areas: the process of writing and the process of composing written expression. Treatment for dyscalculia often includes multi sensory instruction to help kids understand math concepts.


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