Learning Disability Week: Recognizing Learning Disabilities

  • June 13th, 2024

Child with dyslexia uses blue color overlay to make book easier to read.Learning Disability Week, which takes place in the third week of June, is a good opportunity to recognize and support those with learning disabilities. An estimated one in seven Americans and one in five children have a learning disability, according to Bright Futures and the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD).

What Are Learning Disabilities?

Learning disabilities are neurodevelopmental disorders that can impair one’s ability to learn, understand information, or perform specific tasks. These disabilities can present challenges for students, affecting reading, writing, speech and language, or mathematics.

Several types of learning disabilities can impact a person’s ability to communicate or process information. Psychologists diagnose three sensory processing learning disabilities as specific learning disability: dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia. Other learning disabilities include non-verbal learning disabilities, oral and written language disorders, and specific reading comprehension deficit. For children, diagnosing a learning disability often does not occur until they start school.


The most common learning disability, dyslexia, affects language processing skills. According to the Mayo Clinic, differences in parts of the brain that enable reading may cause dyslexia. There may be a genetic component, as dyslexia tends to run in families.

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This language-processing disorder markedly influences reading. Dyslexia causes individuals to read more slowly, as decoding words requires much effort. The result of this extra effort is they may not comprehend what they read.

Dyslexia also affects vocabulary, which can make reading more challenging. Since people with dyslexia take longer to learn words, they may have trouble distinguishing between similar words and understanding words within the context of a sentence.

Difficulties with spelling are also common. Spelling requires a type of visual memory connected to language processing skills. It also involves an understanding of individual sounds called phonemes and the meaningful parts of longer words, known as morphemes.

Since people with dyslexia can have trouble identifying sounds in words and need extra support with vocabulary words, writing can be a challenge, according to the University of Michigan’s resource for help with dyslexia. Those with dyslexia may find writing frustrating as they struggle to put their thoughts into words.

Students with dyslexia can benefit from extra support with language arts. This can include help with phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency skills. Reading aloud can help with comprehension as well.

Individuals with dyslexia can have a range of abilities. In many cases, those with dyslexia need extra support in language arts but may be at grade level or advanced in other subjects such as math and science. As the Mayo Clinic notes, most children with dyslexia can do well in school with support from tutoring or a specialized education program.


While dyslexia affects language arts, dyscalculia affects math. People with dyscalculia have trouble understanding numbers and doing calculations because of differences in areas of the brain that handle mathematics. According to Cleveland Clinic, it affects between 3 percent and 7 percent of people worldwide.

Young children with dyscalculia struggle with understanding numbers. Symptoms of dyscalculia progress with age. Kids can experience challenges with recognizing numbers, counting, ordering numbers, using number lines, and counting money.

As children with this learning disability get older, they have difficulty with doing calculations from memory, memorizing multiplication tables, understanding word problems and advanced symbols, and ordering numbers by scale or decimal place. They can also have trouble recognizing quantities of objects as large or small, needing to count each one, and may count small numbers on their fingers.

Teenagers and adults can have trouble counting backward, baking with measurements, and using cash.

When an individual is born with dyscalculia, it is the result of differences in areas of the brain. People can also get dyscalculia later in life because of damage to these neurological regions. This is known as acquired dyscalculia.

Students with dyscalculia can benefit from support and accommodations in the classroom. Accommodations may include access to a calculator and extra time on tests. Teachers, tutors, and parents can help by working with children to address the anxiety that often accompanies dyscalculia.


Individuals with dysgraphia have trouble writing by hand. Dysgraphia can stem from motor weaknesses affecting writing and cognitive challenges. Per the Child Mind Institute, those with dysgraphia have two separate disorders: development coordination disorder and specific learning disability. Development coordination disorder causes motor challenges, while the specific learning disability component accounts for cognitive challenges.

While it is common to have both disorders, some children with dysgraphia only have one. As a result, these students experience either motor or cognitive symptoms.

Motor issues that children with dysgraphia can experience include difficulty holding a pencil, physical fatigue during writing, and trouble forming letters. Letters may be unevenly shaped and spaced, and writing may not be in a straight line.

Those with dysgraphia can struggle with cognitive processes related to writing. They can have trouble with writing mechanics, including spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. Individuals with dysgraphia can also have trouble organizing their writing.

Students with dysgraphia can benefit from support targeting the motor and cognitive components of this learning disability. Occupational therapists can help with fine motor skills like holding and using a pencil. Multisensory instruction that pairs writing with audio can help students develop writing mechanics.

Learning Disability Week

You can support those with learning disabilities by recognizing Learning Disability Week. Created by Mencap, a UK organization advocating for people with learning disabilities, Learning Disability Week sheds light on the issues facing this community, such as lack of access to educational resources and employment opportunities.

In 2024, Learning Disability Week aims to underscore the importance of recognizing, listening to, and valuing those with learning disabilities. From June 17 to June 23, people with learning disabilities and those in their lives can engage in a range of discussions, fundraising events, and advocacy efforts.

Discussion topics emphasize support, inclusion, and understanding. Mencap’s website provides a list of topics:

  • Monday, 17 June: “Do you see me?”
  • Tuesday, 18 June: “Do you understand me?”
  • Wednesday, 19 June: “Will you work with me?”
  • Thursday, 20 June: “Do you hear me?”
  • Friday, 21 June: “Do you include me?”
  • Saturday, 22 June: “Will you support me?”
  • Sunday, 23 June: A summary of the week

Supporting Students With Learning Disabilities

Parents can support their children with learning disabilities in several ways. At school, students with learning disabilities can receive accommodations and support to help them develop their academic skills.

Children with learning disabilities can receive special education services at public schools. Students, their teachers, and parents can work together to create an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that tailors their education to suit their needs. The IEP sets the goals for the student and outlines the support needed to achieve their goals.

In some cases, accessing accommodations and services at school can be challenging, particularly as learning disabilities are invisible disabilities. Teachers and administrators may downplay the disability, preventing the student from accessing necessary classroom support.

special education advocate can help families navigate through the education system. These advocates can be particularly valuable when school administration presents challenges. Advocates can explain a student’s rights, make demands, and prepare families for important meetings.

While there is no cure, other interventions and treatments for learning disabilities may include support groups, counseling, assistive technology, or medications.

Outside school, tutoring and therapy can teach students tools to manage their learning disability. Learning techniques to reduce stress and anxiety can also benefit students with learning disabilities.

If you suspect your child may have a learning disability, screening may be available through your health care provider. According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA), options for adults who are seeking learning disability testing include the following:

Work with a Special Needs Planning Attorney

For additional advocacy, families might consider working with a special needs attorney. Attorneys can protect the child’s legal right to educational services and help families plan for the future.

Find local special needs planning assistance.

Created date: 06/13/2024


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