Specific Learning Disability (SLD)


A learning disability is a processing disorder which affects the ability to understand or use language, and may result in difficulties in listening, thinking, speaking, reading, writing, spelling, and mathematics. Students with learning disabilities usually have average or above average intelligence. There seems to be a gap between the student’s ability and actual achievement.

Students with learning disabilities display one or more of the following primary characteristics: Reading problems (decoding and / or comprehension), difficulties in written language, and underachievement in math.  Secondary characteristics might include poor social skills, inattention, hyperactivity, and behavioral problems. A student can be found eligible for special education services as a student with a specific learning disability in one or more of the primary areas, if the student’s education is adversely affected.

  • Difficulties learning to read by the first grade
  • Inability to accurately and fluently decode single words
  • Difficulties understanding structure of words
  • May have difficulties in visual naming speed (the ability to quickly name items)
  • Difficulties with reading comprehension (phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and stories)
  • May struggle to accurately summarize or paraphrase what they just read
  • May have trouble learning the alphabet or connecting letters to sounds
  • May make many mistakes when reading aloud, and repeat and pause often
  • May have trouble remembering the sounds that letters make
  • May have trouble hearing slight differences between words
  • May have trouble understanding jokes, comic strips, and sarcasm
  • May mispronounce words or use a wrong word that sounds similar
  • May not be able to retell a story in order
  • May be slow to learn rhymes, numbers, letters, colors, and/or shapes
  • Pronunciation and/or vocabulary issues
  • Inability to discriminate between/among letters, numerals, or sounds
  • May have dyslexia, a specific learning disability (difficulties with word recognition, poor spelling, and decoding abilities)

Written Language
  • Performs poorly across most writing tasks, especially vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, and spelling
  • May use minimal planning, effort, and strategies when writing
  • May use an approach when writing in which they write down whatever they remember with no planning or organization
  • Reverses letters
  • Produces poorly organized writing products
  • May have very messy handwriting or hold a pencil awkwardly
  • May  have a limited vocabulary and struggle with language
  • Eye-hand coordination problems
  • Poor overall coordination
  • Difficulties with fine motor skills
  • Cannot copy accurately, eyes hurt and itch
  • May have trouble organizing thoughts when speaking, or not be able to think of a word for writing or conversation
  • May have dysgraphia, a writing disorder

  • Difficulty with number concepts
  • Difficulties in memorizing number facts and solving word problems
  • Doesn't make connections, such as 5+3=8 and 3+5=8
  • Has difficulty comparing things, or classifying and sorting items
  • Difficulty with time concepts (before, after, tomorrow, last week)
  • May confuse math symbols and misread numbers
  • May struggle to solve multi-step problems
  • May struggle to extract and manipulate important information from word problems
  • May have dyscalculia ( problems with arithmetic and math concepts)

  • May struggle to accurately interpret non-verbal cues (e.g. gestures, facial expressions)
  • May have low social status, few positive interactions at school, difficulty making friends, and seem lonely
  • May not display appropriate verbal and non-verbal cues in conversations
  • Might misunderstand jokes, puns, idioms, sarcasm, etc.
  • May not follow the social rules of conversation, such as taking turns
  • May stand too close to a listener
  • May have a non-verbal learning disability (difficulties recognizing and translating nonverbal cues into meaningful information)

Attention & Behavior
  • May have difficulty attending to a task
  • High rates of movement (hyperactivity)
  • Short attention span
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty following directions
  • May display behavioral problems in the classroom
  • Difficulty following multi-step instructions
  • Often seems slow to respond
  • Comments may seem off topic
  • Often requires a great deal one to one support for understanding
  • May be diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

Strategies for Specific Learning Disability