What are Learning Disorders?

There are many types of learning disorders that can affect our children. The good news is that learning differences and disabilities are getting more press and attention. However, it can get confusing when trying to understand what they mean and how they are similar and different from each other. Children may have one or more learning disorders, regardless of their strong thinking and problem-solving abilities. When your child is not “working to their potential” it may be because they have a legitimate learning issue. Here are a few of the most common learning issues or “Dys-” disorders and what you can do about them.


Dyslexia is a common condition, impacting 1 in 5 people, that affects the way a person’s brain processes written and spoken language. Warning signs look different at different ages, but can include trouble recognizing the letters of the alphabet, difficulty reading out loud, problems understanding reading material, and difficulty with rote memorization. In bright students, dyslexia can be hard to diagnose, due to their ability to compensate and achieve reading milestones despite a learning disability. This is called Stealth Dyslexia.

Dyslexic strengths include strong 3-D reasoning and building, creative problem-solving, high intuition, story telling, and the ability to integrate vast and divergent ideas and concepts.


A student with dysgraphia can have trouble putting words on paper, messy writing, poor spelling or punctuation, or a hard time even holding a pencil. Students with dysgraphia often avoid or melt down during writing activities, don’t take notes or write down their assignments, and “hate to write.” A key sign is if a child can tell a story out loud but can’t get it on paper. It is common for students with dyslexia to have dysgraphia, however, one can have dysgraphia without dyslexia.


Dyscalculia is a learning disorder that makes it hard to make sense of numbers and math concepts. The most common problem is number sense, or the basic understanding of how numbers work. Signs of trouble can include difficulty recognizing numbers and symbols, counting on fingers, trouble remembering phone numbers, or a hard time coming up with a plan to solve a math problem. If a child’s math ability and number sense is significantly below their other abilities, it is a sign that they may have dyscalculia.

What Parents Can Do

If you suspect your child has a learning difference, talking with your child’s teacher will lend insight in to how your child is presenting academically. In addition, an evaluation is key in identifying strengths, weaknesses, learning differences, and why your child may not be performing at his or her potential. An understanding of your child’s strengths and learning challenges not only provide a roadmap for supporting your child’s academic and developmental needs, but will be useful should you request accommodations or services through your child’s school or for exams through the College Board.