Learning Disabilities – Checklist

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What is a learning disability?

A child with a learning disability cannot try harder, pay closer attention, or improve motivation on their own; they need help to learn how to do those things. A learning disability, or learning disorder, is not a problem with intelligence. Learning disorders are caused by a difference in the brain that affects how information is received, processed, or communicated. Children and adults with learning disabilities have trouble processing sensory information because they see, hear, and understand things differently.  

“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, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia. The term does not include children who have learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.” (IDEA, 2004)

Learning disability is a generic term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual and presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction. Even though a learning disability may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions, it is not the direct result of those conditions.

Characteristics of Learning Disabilities

Some of the common characteristics exhibit by a child with learning disabilities can be:

·         Reading problems – 90% of all children identified

·         Deficits in written language – Perform lower across most written expression tasks

·         Underachievement in math – 50% have math IEP goals

·         Poor social skills – 75% have social skills deficits

·         Behavioral problems

The defining characteristic is

·         Specific and significant achievement deficits in the presence of adequate overall intelligence

Motor difficulties and learning disabilities

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.

Math difficulties and learning disabilities

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 2s or counting by 5s) or have difficulty telling time.

Language difficulties and learning disabilities

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.

Reading difficulties and learning disabilities

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

Writing difficulties and learning disabilities

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 and include. They include problems with:

  • neatness and consistency of writing
  • accurately copying letters and words
  • spelling consistency writing organization and coherence

Auditory and visual processing: the importance of the ears and the 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 are not working properly, learning can suffer and there is a greater likelihood of a learning disability or disorder.

Professionals may refer to the ability to hear well as “auditory processing skills” or “receptive language.” The ability to hear things correctly greatly affects 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. 

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

Types of Learning Disabilities




Difficulty in processing language

Reading, writing, spelling, speaking


Difficulty with math

Doing math, understanding time, money, etc


Difficulty with writing

Handwriting, spelling, organizing ideas


Difficulty with fine motors

Problem with hand-eye coordination, balance, manual dexterity

Auditory Processing Disorder

Difficulty hearing differences between sounds

Reading, comprehension, language

Visual Processing Disorder

Difficulty interpreting visual information

Reading, math, maps, charts, symbols, pictures

Learning disabilities related problems

Social and emotional difficulties

Sometimes kids have trouble expressing their feelings, calming themselves down, and reading nonverbal cues, which can lead to difficulty in the classroom and with their peers.

Social and emotional skills are an area where you can have a huge impact as a parent. For all children, but especially those with learning disabilities, social and emotional skills are the most consistent indicators of success, outweighing everything else, including academic factors.  Academic challenges may lead to low self–esteem, withdrawal and behaviour problems, but you can counter these things by creating a strong support system for your child and helping them learn to express themselves, deal with frustration and work through challenges. Your focus on their growth as a person, and not just on academic achievements will help them learn good emotional habits and the right tools for lifelong success.

Other disorders that make learning difficult

Difficulty in school does not always stem from a learning disability. Anxiety, depression, stressful events, emotional trauma, and other conditions affecting concentration make learning more of a challenge.

  • ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), while not considered a learning disability, can certainly disrupt learning. Children with ADHD often have problems with sitting still, staying focused, following instructions, staying organized, and completing homework.
  • Autism – Difficulty mastering certain academic skills can stem from Pervasive Developmental Disorders such as autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Children with an autism spectrum disorder may have trouble making friends, reading body language, communicating, and making eye contact.

Educational Approaches for teaching child with learning disability


Explicit instruction should be used by the teacher while teaching a child with learning disability as it can make the learning easier and clear.

   Range of examples to illustrate a concept

   Models of proficient performance

   Students explain how and why they make decisions

   Frequent, positive feedback for performance

   Adequate practice opportunities

There should be the content enhancements like:

   Guided notes

   Graphic organizers and visual displays



Download the Learning Disabilities – Checklist and check whether your student has learning disability and if he has what kind of learning disability he has. Give it to all the parents and let them analyse the child.

Download : learning-disabilities-checklist

Vishal Jain



    September 27, 2008



    September 27, 2008


  3. malasa

    September 29, 2008

    Without knowing the disorders can a doctor treat his patent similarly without knowing the limitatons of a particular child its not possible to tackle all the children with single teaching strategy. G8 PPT

  4. Zeeba

    May 21, 2012

    Taking care of children with learning difficulty can be challenging in an inclusive setup. A very popular mode of inclusion is the presence of Resource Person (Special Educator) in the premise. A common method practised in India is pull-out method. Here the remediation of the particular target skill is tendered while the ongoing classes of soft subjects like Art, Craft, Physical Education. Besides, support during the evaluation is also necessary.

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