Learning Disabilities

Does My Student Have a Learning Disability?

Does your student show signs of ADHD — or a learning disabilities? Educators and parents, use this chart to determine which symptoms suggest dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, auditory processing disorder, language processing disorder, and/or nonverbal learning disorder.

Q: One of my eighth-grade students has trouble with attention and focus when I give her a reading assignment. She stares out the window or looks around the classroom. She has problems reading most material, whether it’s reading aloud or on a computer screen. Could she have a learning disability, not ADHD?

The chart below lists symptoms of learning disabilities that will give you clues as to the source of your student’s challenges. If you notice symptoms, talk with the psychologist and parents about an evaluation.

  • Difficulty recognizing subtle differences in sounds in words.
  • Trouble differentiating which direction a sound comes from.
  • Finds it hard to block out background noise.
  • Difficulty making sense of the order of sounds.
  • May process thoughts slowly.
  • Trouble understanding metaphors, jokes, and sarcasm.
Auditory Processing Disorder
  • Difficulty understanding numbers and learning math facts.
  • Poor comprehension of math symbols, including positive/negative, place value, number lines.
  • Has trouble sequencing events or information.
  • Difficulty telling time.
  • Trouble counting, including making change or counting money.
  • Struggles with recognizing patterns.
  • Poor ability to organize numbers on a page.
  • Illegible handwriting.
  • Inconsistent spacing when writing.
  • Poor spatial planning on paper.
  • Trouble with spelling.
  • Difficulty composing writing and thinking/writing at the same time.
  • Uses unusual grip on writing instruments.
  • Slow when copying information.
  • Deficits in reading fluency, reads slowly.
  • Difficulty with decoding words.
  • May reverse order of letters.
  • Difficulty with reading comprehension and recall of what was read.
  • Difficulty with writing and spelling.
  • Trouble recalling known words.
  • Substitutes sight words in a sentence.
  • Difficulty attaching meaning to sound groups, words, sentences, and stories.
  • Poor reading comprehension.
  • Trouble labeling objects.
  • Easily frustrated with inability to express oneself.
  • Difficulty recalling the “right” word to use.
  • Trouble understanding jokes.
Language Processing Disorder
  • Clumsy.
  • Trouble interpreting nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language.
  • Poor fine motor skills coordination.
  • Difficulty coping with changes and transitions.
  • Finds it hard to follow multiple-step instructions.
  • Asks a lot of questions.
  • Can be repetitive.
Nonverbal Learning Disabilities
  • Misses subtle differences in shapes or printed letters, using b for d, u for n.
  • Loses place while reading.
  • Finds it difficult to read and may complain of blurring or eyes hurting.
  • Trouble with copying from the board or a book.
  • Struggles with cutting.
  • Holds pencil too tightly.
  • Poor eye-hand coordination.
Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit
(Not a learning disability, but many children with ADHD also have a learning disability.)
  • Difficulty staying focused and paying attention.
  • Difficulty controlling behavior ( impulsive).
Hyperactive ADHD
(Not a learning disability, but often occurs alongside other learning disorders.)
  • Problems with movement and coordination.
  • Poor balance.
  • Problems with language and speech.
  • Trouble with organization.
  • May be sensitive to touch or noise.
(Not a learning disability, but weaknesses in executive functioning skills are often seen in those who
have learning disabilities or ADHD.)
  • Problems with planning, organization, strategizing, paying attention, remembering details, managing time and space.
Executive Functioning Deficits