Definition of Learning Disabilities

A disorder in one or more of the basic processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language, that impacts an individual’s ability of in one of the following areas:

• listening

• thinking

• speaking

• reading

• writing

• spelling

• doing mathematical calculations


Learning disabilities include such conditions as:

• perceptual disabilities

• brain injury

• minimal brain dysfunction

• dyslexia

• developmental aphasia.


Learning disabilities do not include learning problems that are primarily the result of:

• visual, hearing, or motor disabilities

• mental retardation

• environmental or cultural factors

• economic disadvantage



Estimates of the number of individuals with learning disabilities vary greatly, ranging from 1% to 30% of the general population. (Differences in estimates may reflect variations in the definition used.) In 1987, the Interagency Committee on Learning Disabilities concluded that 5% to 10% is a reasonable estimate of the percentage of people affected by learning disabilities.



• People with learning disabilities are usually of average or even above average intelligence.

Learning disabilities are characterized by a significant difference between the individual’s achievement in different areas, as compared to his or her overall intelligence.

• Learning disabilities may occur in the following areas:

Spoken language: Delays, disorders, or discrepancies in listening and speaking;

Written language: Difficulties with reading, writing, and spelling;

Arithmetic: Difficulty performing arithmetic functions or in comprehending basic concepts

Reasoning: Difficulty organizing and integrating thoughts

Organization skills: Difficulty organizing all facets of learning

It is important to remember that there is a high degree of interrelationship and overlapping among areas of learning. Individuals with learning disabilities may exhibit a combination of characteristics.

The following may also be associated with learning disabilities:

• hyperactivity

• inattention

• perceptual coordination problems


A variety of other symptoms may be present, including:

• uneven and unpredictable test performance

• perceptual impairments

• motor disorders

• impulsiveness

• low tolerance for frustration

• problems in handling day-to-day social interactions and situations



Hoff, D., Dreilinger, D., Fesko, S., Fichera, K.,  Jordan, M., Marrone, J., Silverstein, R., Temelini, D., Thomas, C., Sawires Yager, A., Zimbrich, K. (n.d.) Access for All: A Resource Manual for Meeting the Needs of One-Stop Customers with Disabilities. Institute for Community Inclusion Children’s Hospital Boston and the University of Massachusetts. http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/sartkit/focus/culture-vwd-d.html )