Types of Learning Disorders

 There are many different types of learning disorders. In general, they is defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as the following:

“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 the imperfect ability to listen, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematic equations.”

Children with a specific disability may have trouble performing specific types of skills or tasks. What special education attempts to do is to provide support and interventions needed to help these children succeed in school so they can go on to be successful in their adult life.

If your child is struggling in a single class or suddenly begins to have difficulty with school after being successful, I encourage you to schedule a parent teacher conference immediately.


Learning disorders affect the brain’s ability to receive and process information. They are not an indicator of your child’s intelligence. In fact, children with disabilities often have average or above average intelligence.  Disabilities are also very common. According to the US Department of Health, 6 million children have some type of problem with learning and receive special education services.

  • The most common types are difficulties with basic reading and language skills and speech disorders. 80% of children with learning disorders have reading problems. 
  • A learning disability should not be confused with other disabilities such as mental retardation, autism, ADHD, or behavioral disorders.
  • A child who has had a lack of educational opportunities, has frequently changed schools, has attendance problems or who is learning English may be misdiagnosed with a learning disorder.


Most learning disorders can be categorized into four areas of information processing. These include input, integration, storage and output.

  • INPUT: This is the information perceived through the senses such as visual and auditory perception. A disability in this area results in a child having difficulty with recognizing shapes, position or size of items. They can also have problems with sequencing. Auditory perception problems result in the child having a hard time screening out competing sounds in order to focus on one of them, like a teacher’s voice.
  • INTEGRATION: Integration is the stage during which perceived input is interpreted, categorized, placed in a sequence or related to previous learning. A child with problems in this area may be unable to tell a story in a correct sequence, unable to memorize sequences of information such as days of the week, or be unable to learn facts. They may also have a poor vocabulary.
  • STORAGE: A child with memory problems has difficulty learning new material without a series of repetitions. It can also be difficult to learn how to spell.
  • OUTPUT: Information comes out of the brain through words, gesturing, writing or drawing. Difficulties with language output results in a problem with spoken language like answering a question on demand. It can also cause problems with written language. Difficulties with motor abilities can cause either gross or fine motor problems. A child with gross motor delay may be clumsy and prone to stumble, fall or bump into things. They may also have problems running, climbing or learning to ride a bike. A child with fine motor difficulties may struggle with buttoning shirts, tying shoelaces or with handwriting.


  • Trouble learning the alphabet, rhyming words, and connecting letters to sounds.
  • Making many mistakes when reading aloud
  • Not understanding what they are reading
  • Awkward pencil grip and poor handwriting skills
  • Trouble understanding jokes and sarcasm
  • Trouble following multiple directions
  • Trouble organizing thoughts and what they want to say
  • Not following social rules of conversation
  • Confusing mathematical symbols and numbers
  • Not being able to tell a story in order
  • Not knowing where to begin a task
  • Emotional and/or social issues
  • Trouble sleeping or getting along with family


No one knows for sure what causes learning disorders. Sometimes there is no apparent reason.

Studies have shown that possible risk factors include:

  • Heredity:  Learning problems can run in families
  • Problems during Pregnancy or Birth: Disabilities can result from fetal exposure to alcohol or drugs, low birth weight, oxygen deprivation or by premature birth.
  • Accidents After Birth: Head injury, malnutrition or toxic exposure can increase a child's risk of a learning disorder.
  • Social-Environment Factors: Living in a high-risk neighborhood and poor living conditions have been linked to children being more vulnerable to disabilities.
  • Gender: No significant differences have been found between boys and girls. However, there are more then twice the amount of boys in special education programs than girls. Boys are more likely to be evaluated, identified and placed in special education than girls.

If you child does not qualify for special education services, they may qualify for accommodations under Section 504.

To read more about these common disorders and other learning disabilities that affect children, visit these pages:

Asperger's Syndrome
Speech Disorders
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Other Common Learning Disabilities

Want to share this info with other parents? Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.