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PSY 4490 W1 Assignment Understanding Specific Disorders

PSY 4490 W1 Assignment Understanding Specific Disorders


Specific learning disorder (often referred to as learning disorder or learning disability, see note on terminology) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins during school-age, although may not be recognized until adulthood. Learning disabilities refers to ongoing problems in one of three areas, reading, writing and math, which are foundational to one’s ability to learn.

An estimated 5 to 15 percent of school-age children struggle with a learning disability. An estimated 80 percent of those with learning disorders have reading disorder in particular (commonly referred to as dyslexia). One-third of people with learning disabilities are estimated to also have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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Other specific skills that may be impacted include the ability to put thoughts into written words, spelling, reading comprehension, math calculation and math problem solving. Difficulties with these skills may cause problems in learning subjects such as history, math, science and social studies and may impact everyday activities.

Learning disorders, if not recognized and managed, can cause problems throughout a person’s life beyond having lower academic achievement. These problems include increased risk of greater psychological distress, poorer overall mental health, unemployment/under-employment and dropping out of school.

  • Diagnosis

    Learning disorder can only be diagnosed after formal education starts. To be diagnosed with a specific learning disorder, a person must meet four criteria.

    1) Have difficulties in at least one of the following areas for at least six months despite targeted help:

    1. Difficulty reading (e.g., inaccurate, slow and only with much effort)
    2. Difficulty understanding the meaning of what is read
    3. Difficulty with spelling
    4. Difficulty with written expression (e.g., problems with grammar, punctuation or organization)
    5. Difficulty understanding number concepts, number facts or calculation
    6. Difficulty with mathematical reasoning (e.g., applying math concepts or solving math problems)

    2) Have academic skills that are substantially below what is expected for the child’s age and cause problems in school, work or everyday activities.

    3) The difficulties start during school-age even if in some people don’t experience significant problems until adulthood (when academic, work and day-to-day demands are greater).

    4) Learning difficulties are not due to other conditions, such as intellectual disability, vision or hearing problems, a neurological condition (e.g., pediatric stroke), adverse conditions such as economic or environmental disadvantage, lack of instruction, or difficulties speaking/understanding the language.

    A diagnosis is made through a combination of observation, interviews, family history and school reports. Neuropsychological testing may be used to help find the best way to help the individual with specific learning disorder.

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