Learning Disability Issues
Objective at CAPS
To assist students with disability through psychological
testing or reviewing previous psychological testing
2. To provide the student with accommodations needed to
help them academically.
3. To provide support services such as time management.
organizational skills, stress management
4. Additional Information
• Learning Disabilities Association of America
• If you have a learning disability you are not
• Typical learning difficulties include
often complicated by associated disorders such as
attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Dyslexia is an impairment in the brain's ability to translate written
images received from the eyes into meaningful language. Also called
specific reading disability, dyslexia is the most common learning
disability in children.
A learning disability is a condition that produces a gap between
someone's ability and his or her performance. Most people with
dyslexia are of average or above-average intelligence, but read at
levels significantly lower than expected. Other types of learning
disabilities include attention difficulties, an inability to perform well at
writing skills and an inability to perform well at math skills.
Learning disabilities affect about 5 percent of all school-age children
in public schools in the United States. The majority of schoolchildren
who receive special education services have deficits in reading, and
dyslexia is the most common cause.
• Dyslexia occurs in Individuals with normal vision
and normal intelligence. Such individuals usually
have normal speech but often have difficulty
interpreting spoken language and writing.
• Dyslexia seems to be caused by a malfunction in
certain areas of the brain concerned with language.
The condition frequently runs in families.
• Treatment may involve a multisensory education
program. Emotional support of your child on your
part also plays an important role.
Signs and Symptoms of Dyslexia
• Dyslexia can be difficult to recognize, but some
early clues may indicate a problem.
• If you have a problem with new words,
• and add them slowly
• and have difficulty rhyming, you may be at increased risk of
• signs and symptoms of dyslexia may become
more apparent as children go through school,
• The inability to recognize words and letters on a printed page
• A reading ability level much below the expected level for the
age of your child
• Individuals with dyslexia commonly have problems
Processing and understanding what they hear.
They may have difficulty comprehending rapid instructions,
following more than one command at a time or
Remembering the sequence of things.
Reversals of letters (b for d) and a
Reversal of words (saw for was) are typical among individuals who
Individuals with dyslexia may also try to read from right to left,
May fail to see (and occasionally to hear) similarities and differences
in letters and words,
may not recognize the spacing that organizes letters into separate
and may be unable to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar
Screening and diagnosis
There's no single test for dyslexia. Diagnosis involves an evaluation of
Its is usual to undergo vision, hearing and neurologic examinations to see
whether another disorder may be causing or contributing to your poor
Other evaluation include
• Receive a psychological assessment to determine whether social problems, anxiety or
depression may be limiting his or her abilities
Take a set of educational tests and have the process and quality of your
reading skills analyzed by an expert
There's no known way to correct the underlying brain malfunction that causes dyslexia.
Treatment is by remedial education.
Psychological testing will help you identify the areas you need to work on.
You may use techniques involving hearing, vision and touch to improve reading skills. Helping an
individual to use several senses to learn — for example, by listening to a taped lesson and
tracing with a finger the shape of the words spoken — can help you process the information. The
most important teaching approach may be frequent instruction by a reading specialist who uses
these multisensory methods of teaching.
If you have a severe reading disability, tutoring may involve several individual or small-group
sessions each week, and progress may be slow. An individual with severe dyslexia may never be
able to read well and may need training for vocations that don't require strong reading skills.
People with milder forms of dyslexia often eventually learn to read well enough to succeed in
• Additional Resources
(by clicking on these once should be directed to the site)
• International Dyslexia Association
Learning Disabilities Association of America
National Center for Learning Disabilities
National Institute of Mental Health
The word "dyscalculia" means difficulty performing math calculations. In
other words, it just means "math difficulty". And specifically, it means a
learning disability which affects math. Sometimes confusion arises when we
start dealing with the term "dyscalculia" as it relates to "special education
There are very strict criteria (which can differ quite a bit from State to State)
which determine if a student has a learning disability as it is defined by
special education rules.
When a student's math difficulties are severe enough to meet this criteria,
special education services are indicated. On the other hand, "dyscalculia"
has no clearly defined criteria. A student with any degree of math difficulty
may be considered to have "dyscalculia" by some educational specialists.
This frequently occurs when a student receives an educational evaluation
outside of the public school system.
• Info taken from:
Strategies for students with dyscalculia:
• Work extra hard to "visualize" math problems. Maybe even draw
yourself a picture to help understand the problem.
• Take extra time to look at any visual information that may be
provided (picture, chart, graph, etc.).
• Read the problem out loud and listen very carefully. This allows you
to use your auditory skills (which may be a strength).
• Ask to see an example.
• Ask for or try to think of a real-life situation that would involve this
type of problem.
• Do math problems on graph paper to keep the numbers in line.
• Ask for uncluttered worksheets so that you are not overwhelmed by
too much visual information.
• Spend extra time memorizing math facts. Use rhythm or music to
"Dysgraphia" is a learning disability resulting from the difficulty in expressing thoughts
in writing and graphing. It generally refers to extremely poor handwriting.
Each State has its own criteria which determine if a student has a learning disability
as it is defined by special education guidelines. When a student's writing or graphing
difficulties are severe enough to meet these criteria, special education services are
Problems arise because "dysgraphia" has no clearly defined criteria. A student with
any degree of handwriting difficulty may be labeled "dysgraphic" by some educational
specialists, but may or may not need special education services.
Most learning disabled students experience difficulty with handwriting and probably
could be considered "dysgraphic". However, the term is seldom used within public
schools because of the lack of any generally recognized or measurable criteria.
(everything on Dysgraphia is from)
• Students with dysgraphia often have sequencing problems.
Studies indicate that what usually appears to be a perceptual problem
(reversing letters/numbers, writing words backwards, writing letters out of
order, and very sloppy handwriting) usually seems to be directly related to
sequential/rational information processing.
These students often have difficulty with the sequence of letters and words
as they write. As a result, the student either needs to slow down in order to
write accurately, or experiences extreme difficulty with the "mechanics" of
writing (spelling, punctuation, etc.).
They also tend to intermix letters and numbers in formulas. Usually they
have difficulty even when they do their work more slowly. And by slowing
down or getting "stuck" with the details of writing they often lose the
thoughts that they are trying to write about.
Students with an attention deficit disorder (especially with hyperactivity)
often experience rather significant difficulty with writing and formulas in
general and handwriting in particular. This is because ADHD students also
have difficulty organizing and sequencing detailed information. In addition,
ADHD students are often processing information at a very rapid rate and
simply don't have the fine-motor coordination needed to "keep up" with their
Some students can also experience writing difficulty because of a general
auditory or language processing weakness. Because of their difficulty
learning and understanding language in general, they obviously have
difficulty with language expression. Recall that written language is the most
difficult form of language expression.
Although most students with dysgraphia do not have visual or perceptual
processing problems, some students with a visual processing weakness will
experience difficulty with writing speed and clarity simply because they
aren't able to fully process the visual information as they are placing it on
• Students may exhibit strong verbal but particularly poor writing skills .
• Random (or non-existent) punctuation. Spelling errors (sometimes same word spelled
differently); reversals; phonic approximations; syllable omissions; errors in common
suffixes. Clumsiness and disordering of syntax; an impression of illiteracy.
Misinterpretation of questions and questionnaire items. Disordered numbering and
written number reversals.
• Generally illegible writing (despite appropriate time and attention given the task).
• Inconsistencies : mixtures of print and cursive, upper and lower case, or irregular
sizes, shapes, or slant of letters.
• Unfinished words or letters, omitted words.
• Inconsistent position on page with respect to lines and margins and inconsistent
spaces between words and letters.
• Cramped or unusual grip, especially holding the writing instrument very close to the
paper, or holding thumb over two fingers and writing from the wrist.
• Talking to self while writing, or carefully watching the hand that is writing.
• Slow or labored copying or writing - even if it is neat and legible
Encourage students to outline their thoughts. It is important to get the main ideas down on
paper without having to struggle with the details of spelling, punctuation, etc
Have students draw a picture of a thought for each paragraph.
Have students dictate their ideas into a tape recorder and then listen and write them down
Have them practice keyboarding skills. It may be difficult at first, but after they have learned
the pattern of the keys, typing will be faster and clearer than handwriting.
Have a computer available for them to organize information and check spelling. Even if their
keyboarding skills aren't great, a computer can help with the details.
Have them continue practicing handwriting. There will be times throughout a student's life that
they will need to be able to write things down and maybe even share their handwriting with
others. It will continue to improve as long as the student keeps working at it.
Encourage student to talk aloud as they write. This may provide valuable auditory feedback.
Allow more time for written tasks including note-taking, copying, and tests.
Outline the particular demands of the course assignments/continuous assessment; exams,
computer literacy etc. so that likely problems can be foreseen.
Give and allow students to begin projects or assignments early.
Include time in the student's schedule for being a 'library assistant' or 'office assistant' that could also be used
for catching up or getting ahead on written work, or doing alternative activities related to the material being
Instead of having the student write a complete set of notes, provide a partially completed outline so the
student can fill in the details under major headings (or provide the details and have the student provide the
Allow the student to dictate some assignments or tests (or parts thereof) a 'scribe'. Train the 'scribe' to write
what the student says verbatim and then allow the student to make changes, without assistance from the
Remove 'neatness' or 'spelling' (or both) as grading criteria for some assignments, or design assignments to
be evaluated on specific parts of the writing process.
With the students, allow abbreviations in some writing (such as b/c for because). Have the student develop a
repertoire of abbreviations in a notebook. These will come in handy in future note-taking situations.
Reduce copying aspects of work; for example, in Math, provide a worksheet with the problems already on it
instead of having the student copy the problems.
Separate the writing into stages and then teach students to do the same. Teach the stages of the writing
process (brainstorming, drafting, editing, and proofreading, etc.). Consider grading these stages even on
some 'one-sitting' written exercises, so that points are awarded on a short essay for brainstorming and a
rough draft, as well as the final product.
On a computer, the student can produce a rough draft, copy it, and then revise the copy, so that both the
rough draft and final product can be evaluated without extra typing.
Encourage the student to use a spellchecker and, if possible, have someone else proofread his work, too.
Speaking spellcheckers are recommended, especially if the student may not be able to recognize the correct
word (headphones are usually included).
Allow the student to use cursive or manuscript, whichever is most legible
Encourage primary students to use paper with the raised lines to keep writing on the line.
Allow older students to use the line width of their choice. Keep in mind that some students use
small writing to disguise its messiness or spelling.
Allow students to use paper or writing instruments of different colors.
Allow student to use graph paper for math, or to turn lined paper sideways, to help with lining
up columns of numbers.
Allow the student to use the writing instrument that is most comfortable for them.
If copying is laborious, allow the student to make some editing marks rather than recopying
the whole thing.
Consider whether use of speech recognition software will be helpful. If the student and
teacher are willing to invest time and effort in 'training' the software to the student's voice and
learning to use it, the student can be freed from the motor processes of writing or
Develop cooperative writing projects where different students can take on roles such as the
'brainstormer,' 'organizer of information,' 'writer,' 'proofreader,' and 'illustrator.'
Provide extra structure and use intermittent deadlines for long-term assignments. Discuss
with the student and parents the possibility of enforcing the due dates by working after school
with the teacher in the event a deadline arrives and the work is not up-to-date.
Build handwriting instruction into the student's schedule. The details and degree of
independence will depend on the student's age and attitude, but many students would like to
have better handwriting.
Keep in mind that handwriting habits are entrenched early. Before engaging in a battle over a
student's grip or whether they should be writing in cursive or print, consider whether enforcing
a change in habits will eventually make the writing task a lot easier for the student, or whether
this is a chance for the student to make his or her own choices. Beware of overload, the
student has other tasks and courses.
Teach alternative handwriting methods such as "Handwriting Without Tears."
Writing just one key word or phrase for each paragraph, and then going back later to fill in the
details may be effective.
Multisensory techniques should be utilized for teaching both manuscript and cursive writing.
The techniques need to be practiced substantially so that the letters are fairly automatic
before the student is asked to use these skills to communicate ideas.
Have the students use visual graphic organizers. For example, you can create a mind map so
that the main idea is placed in a circle in the center of the page and supporting facts are
written on lines coming out of the main circle, similar to the arms of a spider or spokes on a
Do papers and assignments in a logical step-wise sequence. An easy way to remember these
steps is to think of the word POWER.
P - plan your paper
O - organize your thoughts and ideas
W - write your draft
E - edit your work
R - revise your work, producing a final draft
If a student becomes fatigued have them try the following:
* Shake hands fast, but not violently.
* Rub hands together and focus on the feeling of warmth.
* Rub hands on the carpet in circles (or, if wearing clothing with some
mild texture, rub hands on thighs, close to knees)
* Use the thumb of the dominant hand to click the top of a ballpoint
pen while holding it in that hand. Repeat using the index finger.
* Perform sitting pushups by placing each palm on the chair with
fingers facing forward. Students push down on their hands, lifting
their body slightly off the chair.
Allow student to tape record important assignments and/or take oral
Prioritize certain task components during a complex activity. For
example, students can focus on using descriptive words in one
assignment, and in another, focus on using compound sentences.
Reinforce the positive aspects of student's efforts.
Be patient with yourself
ttention deficit/hyperactivity disorde
• Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a group of chronic
disorders that begin in childhood and sometimes last into adult life.
Problems generally associated with ADHD include inattention,
hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. They can affect nearly every
aspect of life. Children and adults with ADHD often struggle with low
self-esteem, troubled personal relationships and poor performance
in school or at work.
The best treatment for ADHD is a matter of debate. Currently,
psychostimulant drugs are the most common treatment. But
although these drugs can relieve many symptoms, they don't cure
ADHD. Counseling, special accommodations in the classroom, and
family and community support are other key parts of treatment.
Signs and Symptoms
• At various times, ADHD has been called attention-deficit disorder
(ADD), hyperactivity, and even minimal brain dysfunction. But ADHD
is the preferred term because it more accurately describes all
aspects of the condition. Yet changing the name hasn't made ADHD
For some time, experts disagreed on how ADHD should be
diagnosed — and even on whether it was a real disorder. But in
1998, the National Institute of Mental Health decided that ADHD is a
legitimate condition. In addition, most doctors believe that a child
shouldn't receive a diagnosis of ADHD unless the core symptoms of
ADHD appear early in life — before age 7 — and create significant
problems at home and at school on an ongoing basis.
The symptoms of ADHD fall into two broad categories:
In general, individuals are said to have ADHD if they show six or
more symptoms from each category for at least six months.
These symptoms must significantly affect a persons ability to
function in at least two areas of life — typically at home and at
This helps ensure that the problem isn't with a particular teacher or
only with parents. Children who have problems in school but get
along well at home are not considered to have ADHD. The same is
true of children who are hyperactive or inattentive but whose
schoolwork and friendships aren't affected by their behavior.
In most children diagnosed with ADHD, signs and symptoms appear
between 4 and 6 years of age, although they sometimes may occur even
earlier. They include the following:
• Often fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in
schoolwork or other activities
• Often has trouble sustaining attention during tasks or play
• Often doesn't seem to listen when spoken to directly
• Often doesn't follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork,
chores or other tasks
• Often has difficulty organizing tasks or activities
• Often avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as
schoolwork or homework
• Often loses things needed for tasks or activities, such as books, pencils,
toys or tools
• Is often easily distracted
• Is often forgetful
• Hyperactivity-impulsive behavior
• Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
• Often leaves seat in the classroom or in other situations
where remaining seated is expected
• Often runs or climbs excessively when it's not
appropriate, or, if an adolescent might constantly feel
• Often has difficulty playing quietly
• Is often "on the go" or acts as if "driven by a motor"
• Often talks excessively
Often blurts out the answers before questions have been completely
Often has difficulty waiting his or her turn
Often interrupts or intrudes on others by butting into conversations
Most healthy children exhibit many of these behaviors at one time or
another. For instance, parents may worry that a 3-year-old who can't
listen to a story from beginning to end or finish a drawing may have
ADHD. But preschoolers normally have a short attention span and
aren't able to stick with one activity for long. This doesn't mean
they're inattentive — it simply means they're normal preschoolers.
Even in older children and adolescents, attention span often
depends on the level of interest in a particular activity. Most
teenagers can listen to music or talk to their friends for hours but
may be a lot less focused about homework.
Being different isn't ADHD
The same is true of hyperactivity. Young children are naturally
energetic — they often wear their parents out long before they're
worn out themselves. And they may become even more active when
they're tired, hungry, anxious or in a new environment. In addition,
some children just naturally have a higher activity level than others.
Every child is unique, with a distinct personality and temperament.
Children should never be classified as having ADHD just because
they're different from their friends or siblings.
Most children with ADHD don't have all the signs and symptoms of
Furthermore, symptoms may be different in boys and girls.
• Boys are more likely to be hyperactive,
• and girls tend to be inattentive. In addition, girls who have trouble paying
attention often daydream, but inattentive boys are more likely to play or
fiddle aimlessly. Boys also tend to be less compliant with teachers and other
adults, so their behavior is often more conspicuous.
At the same time, children diagnosed with ADHD may have some
things in common.
• They tend to be especially sensitive to stimuli such as sights, sounds and
touch, for instance. And when overstimulated, they can quickly get out of
control, becoming giddy and sometimes aggressive or even physically or
• Children with the inattentive form of ADHD may seem to drift away into their
own thoughts or lose track of what's going on around them.
Symptoms of ADHD in adults
ADHD always begins in childhood, but it may persist into adult life.
The core symptoms of :
• hyperactivity and
• Impulsive behavior are the same for adults as for children, but they often
manifest differently and far more subtly in adults.
• Hyperactivity, in particular, is generally less overt in adults. Children may
race around madly; adults are more likely to be restless and to have trouble
On the other hand, problems with organization and concentration
often increase as people get older and their lives become more
complicated and demanding.
• Adults diagnosed with ADHD often say that their biggest frustration
is their inability to focus and to prioritize, leading not only to missed
deadlines but also to forgotten meetings and social engagements.
As difficult as this is, the impulsive behavior of some adults with
ADHD can be even more problematic. The inability to control
impulses, which some experts say may be the defining
characteristic of ADHD, can range from impatience waiting in line or
driving in heavy traffic to mood swings, intense outbursts of anger
and troubled relationships.
One set of guidelines used to diagnose adult ADHD, called the Utah
criteria, lists the following as characteristic of adults with the
A childhood history of ADHD
Hyperactivity and poor concentration
Inability to complete tasks
Inability to deal with stress
Optimal treatment for ADHD is a matter of intense debate. Current treatments
typically involve therapy, medication or both.
Children and adults with ADHD often greatly benefit from counseling or behavior
therapy, which may be provided by a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or other
mental health care professional. Some people with ADHD may also have other
conditions such as anxiety disorder or depression. In these cases, counseling may
help both ADHD and the coexisting problem.
Counseling therapies may include:
Psychotherapy. This allows older children and adults with ADHD to talk about issues
that bother them, explore negative behavioral patterns and learn ways to deal with
Behavior therapy. This type of therapy helps teachers and parents learn strategies
(contingency management procedures) for dealing with children's behavior. These
strategies may include token reward systems and timeouts. Behavior modification
using contingency management techniques has proved especially beneficial for
people with ADHD.
Family therapy. Family therapy can help parents and siblings deal with the
stress of living with a child who has ADHD.
Social skills training. This can help children learn appropriate social
Support groups.Support groups can offer adults and children with ADHD
and their parents a network of social support, information and education.
Parenting skills training. This can help parents develop ways to
understand and guide their child's behavior.
The best results usually occur when a team approach is used, with
teachers, parents, and therapists or physicians working together. You can
help by making every effort to work with your child's teachers and by
referring them to reliable sources of information to support their efforts in the
Drugs known as psychostimulants are the most commonly prescribed
medications for treating ADHD in children and adults. Sometimes
antidepressants may also be used — especially for adults and for children
who don't respond to stimulants or who are depressed or have other
Although scientists don't understand exactly why these drugs work,
stimulants appear to boost and balance levels of the brain chemicals
dopamine, which is associated with activity, and serotonin, which is
associated with a sense of well-being. Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta),
the primary medication used to treat ADHD, seems to increase levels of
dopamine in the brain by blocking the activity of dopamine transporters,
which remove dopamine after it has been released.
Besides methylphenidate, ADHD medications include d- and l-amphetamine
racemic mixture (Adderall), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) and the
nonstimulant drug atomoxetine (Strattera).
All these medications may help alleviate the core symptoms of
inattention and hyperactivity — sometimes dramatically. But drugs
don't address other problems, such as lack of academic
achievement, poor social skills or conflict at home. In addition, some
doctors question giving stimulants to young children, especially
when no studies have been done to determine the long-term safety
of these drugs.
The number of children treated with psychostimulants has increased
dramatically in recent years. Many of those children are very young
— between 2 and 4 years of age. Yet studies have shown that
without behavior therapy and educational services, medication
alone isn't likely to be effective in improving a child's long-term
Side effects in adults
In general, psychostimulant side effects in adults are similar to those
in children. But ADHD drugs are also more likely to cause certain
problems specifically in adults, including mild increases in blood
pressure that may be significant for people who already have
hypertension, and the liver disease hepatitis. In addition, because
adults usually require higher dosages of these medications than
children do, the risk of abuse or addiction may be greater.
Adults diagnosed with ADHD are far more likely to be given
antidepressants than children are. Side effects may include dry
mouth, urinary retention, weight gain, drowsiness and sexual