Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Learning Disabilities
Learning disabilities make it hard for your child to learn in certain areas. Your child may have trouble with listening, speaking, reading, writing, spelling, or doing math. One example of a learning disability is dyslexia. A child with dyslexia has a hard time reading, writing, and spelling.
Learning disabilities aren't the same as learning challenges that are caused by problems with seeing, hearing, or moving. They aren't linked to emotional problems or to your culture, environment, or income. But many children with learning disabilities have other problems that make school hard. These include ADHD and problems with behavior or memory.
A learning disability is lifelong. Your child will continue to have it as an adult. But taking steps to manage it early during childhood can help. Children with a learning disability are often able to deal with the disability and succeed in school and other areas. This success can continue into adulthood.
Most of the time, experts don't know the reason for learning disabilities. But these disabilities tend to run in families.
Experts think that some children have learning disabilities because their brains use and process information in a different way than other children's do. A learning disability doesn't mean that your child is less intelligent than other children or has "lazy" school habits.
Some learning disabilities may be caused by a mother's illness or injury during or before her child's birth or by her use of drugs and alcohol during pregnancy.
After a child is born, a head injury, poor nutrition, exposure to toxins (such as lead), or child abuse can contribute to learning disabilities.
The signs of learning disabilities vary depending on age. They are often discovered in elementary school, when a child has trouble doing tasks that involve reading, writing, or math.
The most common signs are:
Your child also may:
If you think your child has a learning disability, speak with your child's doctor, teacher, or school counselor.
You can also ask your child about any problems that he or she may be having in school.
You may want to have your child tested. Your doctor or a school professional will ask you what signs of a learning disability you and your child's teachers have seen. Your child will also be asked questions.
A single test can't diagnose a learning disability. Tests may include reading and writing tests, as well as those that focus on your child's personality, learning style, language and problem-solving skills, and IQ (intelligence quotient).
A learning disability is treated by using educational tools to help overcome it. Medicines and counseling usually aren't used.
For most children, federal law requires that a public school create an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP details your child's disability, appropriate teaching methods, and goals for the school year. The IEP changes, based on how well your child is doing. You have the right to ask for a change in the IEP if you don't agree with it.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Other Works Consulted
Levine MD (2009). Differences in learning and neurodevelopmental function in school-age children. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 535–546. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Reiff MI, Stein MT (2011). Learning problems. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph's Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 327–331. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Tannock R (2009). Learning disorders. In BJ Sadock, VA Sadock, eds., Kaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 9th ed., vol. 2, pp. 3475–3485. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Williams.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerSusan C. Kim, MD - PediatricsSpecialist Medical ReviewerThomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Current as ofNovember 20, 2015
Current as of:
November 20, 2015
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
I Want To...
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.