Types of Learning Disabilities

There are many kinds of learning disabilities and the jargon can get confusing. Following are some common terms and their definitions:

  1. Dyscalculia - Inability to do math.
  2. Dysaraphia - Inability to write.
  3. Dyslexia - Inability to read.
  4. Association Reactions: One part of the body moves involuntarily because of the movements of another part of the body: For instance the left arm may move when the right arm moves or one arm may move when the head turns.
  5. Auditory Perceptual Problem: Trouble taking information in through the sense of hearing and/or processing that information. People with this problem frequently hear inaccurately. A sequencing of discrimination error can change the meaning of the entire message. For example, one might hear "I ran to the car", instead of 'I rented the car". People with auditory handicaps frequently do not hear unaccented syllables. They may hear 'formed" instead of "performed", "seven" instead of 'seventy'. Some auditory perceptual handicaps are:
    • Auditory discrimination problem - trouble telling the difference between similar sounds, such as 'th' and 'f' or 'm' and 'n'; hearing "seventeens" instead of "seventy"; hearing an angry rather than a joking tone of voice.
    • Auditory figure-ground problem - Trouble hearing a sound over background noise: for example, being unable to hear the telephone ring when one is listening to the radio, or having difficulty hearing someone talking at a party when music is playing.
    • Auditory sequencing problem - Trouble hearing sounds in the correct order, for example, hearing 'nine-four' instead of 'four-nine'; hearing 'treads' instead of 'street', hearing music garbled because the melody is perceived out of order.
  6. Catastrophic response - An involuntary reaction to too may sights, sounds, extreme emotions or other strong stimuli. This may result in losing one's temper, becoming dazed or unaware of one's surroundings, or "freezing" for a short time.
  7. Cognitive Disorganization: Difficulty thinking in an orderly, logical way, People with this problem often jump to conclusions and have difficulty planning tasks.
  8. Crossing the Midline : Trouble with moving one's limbs across the centre of the body. This could include: Difficulty writing across a page, sweeping a floor or controlling a steering wheel.
  9. Directional Problem: Trouble automatically distinguishing left from right; learning north, south, east and west; learning the layout of a large symmetrical building.
  10. Disinhibition: Difficulty in behaving appropriately in an automatic way. This is a problem with the self-government part of the brain that stops one from doing such things as laughing at the wrong time, talking aloud to oneself, coughing without covering the mouth. A disinhibited person might abruptly interrupt a conversation or talk aloud to himself in public.
  11. Intersensory Problem., Trouble using two senses at once or associating two senses, for instance, not realizing that the letter "d" which is seen, is the same as the sound "d" when it is spoken; being unable to feel someone tap you on the shoulder while you are reading; being unable to listen to conversation and drive at the same time.
  12. Memory Problem - Short term,, Trouble remembering; names, numbers, specific facts, what happened a few minutes ago. A poor memory makes academic success difficult.
  13. Motor Problem: Trouble moving one's body efficiently to achieve a certain goal. Some motor problems are;
    • Perceptual motor problems- Trouble performing a task requiring coordination because of inaccurate information received through the senses. This may result in clumsiness, difficulty in participating in simple sports, awkward or stiff movements.
    • Visual motor problem - Trouble seeing something and then doing it; learning a dance step while watching a teacher, copying something off a blackboard, throwing something at a target
    • Auditory motor problem- Trouble hearing something and then doing it, following verbal directions, dancing to a rhythmic beat, taking notes in a lecture.
  14. Perceptual Problems: Trouble taking information in through one's senses and/or processing that information.
  15. Proprioceptive Perceptual Problem: Trouble knowing where one is in space. A person with this problem might not be able to tell the position of her limbs with her eyes closed.
  16. Soft Neurological Signs: Signs of central nervous system dysfunction that can be observed; staring, turning the head instead of moving the eyes, inability to look people in the eye, not holding the head straight, being easily startled.
  17. Tactile Perceptual Problem: Trouble taking information in through the sense of touch. Some tactile handicaps are:
    • Immature Tactile System- People with this problem dislike being touched lightly, but crave pressure touch, such as being hugged hard or huddling with knees to their chest. Until the immaturity is overcome, tactical discrimination cannot develop.
    • Tactile Defensiveness- Tendency to avoid being touched because of an immature tactile system.
    • Tactile Discrimination Problem - Trouble feeling the difference between similar objects, such as bond or regular typing paper, light or heavy sandpaper, silk or cotton, ripe or unripe cantaloupe.
    • Tactile Pressure Problem - Trouble judging the right amount of pressure needed to perform motor acts, holding an egg in two fingers without breaking or dropping it, tapping someone playfully rather than hitting them.
  18. Vestibular Perceptual Problem: Problem with one's senses of balance, for example, a tendency to lose one's footing on a curb.
  19. Visual Perceptual Problem: Trouble taking information in through the sense of sight and/or processing that information. Some of these are:
    • Visual figure-ground problem: Trouble seeing a specific image within a competing background; finding a face in a crowd, finding keys on a crowded desk, picking out one line of print from the other lines in a book. People with this problem cannot see things that others can see; to them, the keys on a crowded desk are not there.
    • Visual discrimination problem: Trouble seeing things in a correct order, for instance, seeing letters or numbers reversed, seeing two cans reversed on a shelf of cans. The person with this problem actually sees the word incorrectly. He sees 'was' instead of saw.
    • Visual Discrimination problem: Trouble seeing the difference between two similar objects, such as, the letters 'v' and 'u' or 'e' and 'c'; the difference between two shades of one colour or two similar types of leaves. The person with this problem sees the two similar objects as alike.
    • Depth perception problem: Trouble perceiving how far away (or near) an object may be; For instance, you may not know how close the fork is to your hand or how far to reach to put a glass of water on the table.
Reproduced from "Closer Look" by Dale Brown Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario 124 Merton Street Toronto, Ont. M4S 2Z2 Phone (416) 487-4106

Sourced from the website of St Francis Xavier University, Canada.

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