Terms About Learning Disabilities


Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Medical conditions that affect how well a person can sit still, pay attention, and focus. People with the condition have differences in parts of their brains that control attention and activity.


A mental disability that impairs social and communication development. Autistic people usually show minimal interest in learning and social situations. Symptoms can range greatly, from very mild to severe. Autistic children are often faced with difficult learning situations.

Asperger’s Syndrome

A common, yet mild, form of autism, in which there is no impaired language skills, but the
person experiences difficulties in social interactions.

Conduct Disorder

A disorder that can be overlooked as just “bad” behavior, Conduct Disorder can impair a child or teen’s social interactions, and can cause aggressive behavior towards others, rule violations and antisocial behavior. It can be caused by by several different reasons, including some form of abuse or brain damage.


A learning disability where a person encounters difficulty with written language, especially reading and spelling. A dyslexic brain processes differently, but it is not an intellectual disability–people of all IQ levels are diagnosed with dyslexia.


Dysgraphia is similar to Dyslexia, but instead of having trouble reading, those affected have difficulty writing. It is usually characterized by very poor handwriting and/or writing words and letters backwards or out of order. It is present in many cases of ADD/ADHD. Dyscalculia is in the same category, except it concerns math and numbers.

Down Syndrome

A genetic defect that can cause a degree of both physical and mental retardation. Children with Down Syndrome are at increased risk for hearing loss and impaired vision, and can take longer to develop mentally than non affected children.

Learning Disabilities

A general term that describes specific kinds of learning issues. Academic areas usually affected by learning disabilities are: reading, writing, listening, speaking, reasoning, and math. Many learning disabilities affect the way a person processes information and can often slow down the rate of work. Children with learning disabilities are not “dumb” or “lazy.” Typically, learning disabled students have average or above-average intelligence levels.

Nonverbal Learning Disorder

Nonverbal Learning Disorders (NLD) go many times undiagnosed, because they affect mostly social interactions, and take longer to identify academically. They can cause a severe lack of organization, strong problems in areas like math or reading comprehension. Kids with NLD are not only affected in terms of their school work, but socially as well. They can have trouble reading the subtleties in other people’s emotional reactions, and tend to be blunt about their own.

Rett Syndrome

A disorder that appears almost only in girls, and can cause symptoms similar to those caused by Autism. Rett Syndrome can cause a loss of motor skills, and interference in speech and eye contact.


A communication problem in which words and sounds are repeated, drawn out, skipped or not fully completed. It is relatively common in children between ages two and eight and often resolves before puberty. Developmental stuttering is a problem that persists and can get worse over time. In this case, it doesn’t resolve on its own and counseling or speech therapy can help.


American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry

Lucille Packard Children's Hospital

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

West Virginia University

Non-verbal Learning Disorder