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ADHD, Learning, & Reading Disorders

Learning Disorders affect approximately 8 to 10 percent of children, and approximately one third of those experiencing a Learning Disorder are also likely to experience an attention deficit disorder. 


Learning disorders are identified when there are significant difficulties in processing and learning new information that affect one’s academic performance. Such difficulties may occur in the areas of math (dyscalculia), reading (dyslexia), writing (dysgraphia), executive function, information processing, and memory. Often, a discrepancy is seen between the student’s capability or potential to achieve and his or her actual achievement performance. 


For some students, visual-perceptual skills and sensory functioning are impaired, whereas verbal and language skills are strong and intact. In such cases, the learning difficulties are described as a Nonverbal Learning Disorder.


The terms Learning Disorder and Learning Disability are often used interchangeably, although Learning Disorder is considered the formal medical diagnosis. Nonetheless, Learning Disorders may not become obvious until the child is in school, and even then, diagnosis may be delayed. It is not uncommon for very bright children to make their way through the educational system by compensating for their weaknesses. However, at some point, especially in the higher grades when learning and acquisition of new information are more dependent on reading skills and burdened by increasing reading assignments, it becomes very difficult for the student to keep up with the workload. For such bright students, a decrease in school performance may be incorrectly attributed to “slacking off,” laziness, or lack of motivation. This can result in the student feeling frustrated, confused, and demoralized, all of which ultimately negatively affects self-esteem and attitudes about school. Behavioral acting out and emotional distress may develop.


Early identification is critical to preventing feelings of failure and falling further behind as the student progresses through the higher grades. Identification occurs through formal evaluation and testing, such as that conducted by a neuropsychologist. The evaluation process allows for identification of cognitive strengths and weaknesses, learning patterns, and discrepancies in performance. The most important part of the evaluation is the creation of a list of recommendations tailored to the student’s learning profile. These recommendations are then shared with the academic program or school in order to develop a plan of accommodations and instruction. In some cases, an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) or 504 plan may be instituted by the school to allow for more formalized implementation of academic accommodations.


Examples of some accommodations include:

  • Extended time on testing and assignments

  • Rest breaks during testing or long classes

  • Additional instruction and tutoring

  • Small class size

  • In class aide

  • Resource Room

  • Separate room for testing

  • Speech and Language Therapy

  • Occupational Therapy

  • Reading Specialist

  • A note taker

  • Audio Books

  • Use of technology: computers, audio-recorders, spell-checker

  • Academic Coach/Mentor 

  • Counseling


The educational plan should be reviewed on a yearly basis to determine if it has been successful in meeting the needs of the student and helping him or her improve academic performance. Comprehensive testing and evaluation should be repeated approximately every two years in order to update the plan as the student matures and developmental needs change.

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