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Specific Learning Disabilites

There is much debate on the proper definition of a SLD. The conclusion is; a disability that is concerned with difficulties in a specific subject or other targeted academic and personal areas. Someone with a SLD has a disorder in one of the psychological processes.

*The psychological processes include attention, auditory processing, visual processing, executive function, long-term memory, and processing speed.


To be diagnosed with a specific learning disorder, a person must meet four criteria.


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

  • Difficulty reading (e.g., inaccurate, slow and only with much effort).

  • Difficulty understanding the meaning of what is read.

  • Difficulty with spelling.

  • Difficulty with written expression (e.g., problems with grammar, punctuation or organization).

  • Difficulty understanding number concepts, number facts or calculation.

  • Difficulty with mathematical reasoning (e.g., applying math concepts or solving math problems).


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


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


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.

  • In the 1960's, learning disability was recognized as a category of disability.

  • SLD has been the fastest growing category of special education from 1975 to the beginning of the 21st century.

  • The ratio of boys to girls identified as having SLD is at least 2:1, and in some studies, it is even 3:1.

  • SLD are found in all areas of learning.

  • Learning disabilities occur due to a dysfunction in the brain, not because of external factors.


There are three sets of criteria used to verify that a student has a specific learning disability.

1.  With a traditional assessment of procedures.

2. Students who are not making the progress necessary to meet expected standards.

3. A pattern of strengths and weaknesses that potentially indicates a learning disability.

  • For many schools, formal assessments are used to determine whether a student has a SLD or not.

  • Norm-referenced tests: Tests used to compare the student taking the test to a large group or the "norm" group.

  • Criterion-referenced tests: These tests are used to determine if the student taking the test has learned a large chunk of information.

  • Classroom assessments are also used to determine if a student has a SLD.



Elementary Classroom
  • May struggle with weakness in memory

  • Struggle with thinking/processing information.

  • Most commonly students with a SLD have difficulties with learning inside a traditional classroom setting.

  • Socially, there is often a lack of motivation to learn, and trouble with social skills in general.

  • In many cases, there are difficulties communicating with peers, teachers, parents, or other educators.


There are many effective options when it comes to educating students with learning disabilities.

  • Young children are not commonly diagnosed with learning disabilities, but developmental delays.

  • There are programs that focus on the specific skill the child is struggling with.

  • For elementary-aged students, 98% of students with learning disabilities receive their education at a typical public school. 

  • More than 66% of today's students spend the entire school day with their peers in general education settings.

  • The potential outcomes for transitioning to adulthood vary based on student. Some students move on to college, employment, while others do not participate in education after high school.


Direct Instruction based on these guiding principles:

1. Presenting lessons in a well-organized manner

2. Beginning lessons with a review of previous lesson.

3.Beginning lessons with goals.

4. Presenting new material in small amounts.

5. Providing students with oppurtunies to practice their skills.

6. Asking questions to check students' understanding.​


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