“Dys” means difficulty with and “lexia” means words – thus “difficulty with words”. Originally the term “Dyslexia” referred to a specific learning deficit that hindered a person’s ability to read. More recently, however, it has been used as a general term referring to the broad category of language deficits that often includes the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words as well as the ability to read and spell words accurately and fluently. When breakdowns occur in these foundational reading skills, dyslexic students often struggle to understand what they read as well as develop vocabulary at a slower rate.
There are two types of learning disabilities in reading. Basic reading problems occur when there is difficulty understanding the relationship between sounds, letters and words. Reading comprehension problems occur when there is an inability to grasp the meaning of words, phrases, and paragraphs.
Signs of reading difficulty include problems with:
- letter and word recognition
- understanding words and ideas
- reading speed and fluency
- general vocabulary skills
“Dys” means difficulty with and “graphia” means writing – thus “difficulty with writing”. The term dysgraphia refers to more than simply having poor handwriting. This term refers to those who struggle with the motor skills necessary to write thoughts on paper, spelling, and the thinking skills needed for vocabulary retrieval, clarity of thought, grammar, and memory.
Learning disabilities in writing can involve the physical act of writing or the mental activity of comprehending and synthesizing information. Basic writing disorder refers to physical difficulty forming words and letters. Expressive writing disability indicates a struggle to organize thoughts on paper.
Symptoms of a written language learning disability revolve around the act of writing. They include problems with:
- neatness and consistency of writing
- accurately copying letters and words
- spelling consistency
- writing organization and coherence
“Dys” means difficulty with and “calculia” means calculations and mathematics – thus “difficulty with calculations and mathematics”. This term refers to those who struggle with basic number sense and early number concepts as well as have difficulties with math calculations and math reasoning.
Learning disabilities in math vary greatly depending on the child’s other strengths and weaknesses. A child’s ability to do math will be affected differently by a language learning disability, or a visual disorder or a difficulty with sequencing, memory or organization.
A child with a math-based learning disorder may struggle with memorization and organization of numbers, operation signs, and number “facts” (like 5+5=10 or 5×5=25). Children with math learning disorders might also have trouble with counting principles (such as counting by twos or counting by fives) or have difficulty telling time.
Other types of learning disabilities and disorders
Reading, writing, and math aren’t the only skills impacted by learning disorders. Other types of learning disabilities involve difficulties with motor skills (movement and coordination), understanding spoken language, distinguishing between sounds, and interpreting visual information.
Learning disabilities in motor skills (dyspraxia)
Motor difficulty refers to problems with movement and coordination whether it is with fine motor skills (cutting, writing) or gross motor skills (running, jumping). A motor disability is sometimes referred to as an “output” activity meaning that it relates to the output of information from the brain. In order to run, jump, write or cut something, the brain must be able to communicate with the necessary limbs to complete the action.
Signs that your child might have a motor coordination disability include problems with physical abilities that require hand-eye coordination, like holding a pencil or buttoning a shirt.
Learning disabilities in language (aphasia/dysphasia)
Language and communication learning disabilities involve the ability to understand or produce spoken language. Language is also considered an output activity because it requires organizing thoughts in the brain and calling upon the right words to verbally explain something or communicate with someone else.
Signs of a language-based learning disorder involve problems with verbal language skills, such as the ability to retell a story and the fluency of speech, as well as the ability to understand the meaning of words, parts of speech, directions, etc.
Auditory and visual processing problems: the importance of the ears and eyes
The eyes and the ears are the primary means of delivering information to the brain, a process sometimes called “input.” If either the eyes or the ears aren’t working properly, learning can suffer.
Auditory processing disorder – Professionals may refer to the ability to hear well as “auditory processing skills” or “receptive language.” The ability to hear things correctly greatly impacts the ability to read, write and spell. An inability to distinguish subtle differences in sound, or hearing sounds at the wrong speed make it difficult to sound out words and understand the basic concepts of reading and writing.
Visual processing disorder – Problems in visual perception include missing subtle differences in shapes, reversing letters or numbers, skipping words, skipping lines, misperceiving depth or distance, or having problems with eye–hand coordination. Professionals may refer to the work of the eyes as “visual processing.” Visual perception can affect gross and fine motor skills, reading comprehension, and math.
Common types of learning disabilities
Dyslexia – Difficulty with reading
- Problems reading, writing, spelling, speaking
Dyscalculia – Difficulty with math
- Problems doing math problems, understanding time, using money
Dysgraphia – Difficulty with writing
- Problems with handwriting, spelling, organizing ideas
Dyspraxia (Sensory Integration Disorder) – Difficulty with fine motor skills
- Problems with hand-eye coordination, balance, manual dexterity
Dysphasia/Aphasia – Difficulty with language
- Problems understanding spoken language, poor reading comprehension
Auditory Processing Disorder – Difficulty hearing differences between sounds
- Problems with reading, comprehension, language
Visual Processing Disorder – Difficulty interpreting visual information
- Problems with reading, math, maps, charts, symbols, pictures