Types of Learning Disorders

Four main types of learning disorders can affect a child’s ability to effectively use—or “process”—information gathered by the senses. Some children have only one type of learning disorder, whereas others may have more than one.

Reading Disorder

Commonly called dyslexia, a reading disorder affects a child’s ability to accurately recognize, understand, and decode words. Children with this type of disorder read more slowly than their peers, because they have difficulty telling the difference between certain letters or linking common sounds with letters.  

Mathematics Disorder

Mathematics disorder, also known as dyscalculia, interferes with a child’s ability to understand mathematical terms, operations, or concepts. Children with a math disorder may have a hard time recognizing and reading mathematical signs, copying numbers correctly, adding and carrying numbers, following the sequences of mathematical steps, counting objects, and learning multiplication tables. 

Disorder of Written Expression

Disorder of written expression, or dysgraphia, affects both information processing and fine motor skill—the ability to make small, specific movements. Children with this disorder often have very poor handwriting. A child with dysgraphia also tends to make multiple grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors and has difficulty organizing his or her thoughts when writing. 

Nonverbal Learning Disorder 

A child may be diagnosed with nonverbal learning disorder if he or she has strong verbal skills but poor motor, visual-spatial, and social skills. Nonverbal learning disorder may be the result of developmental delays that affect social and emotional learning and fine motor skills. Children with this disorder have difficulty following complicated instructions, handling changes in routine, or interpreting nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions or body language. This disorder can cause problems with tasks that require fine motor coordination, such as tying shoes, writing, and using scissors. 

Other Learning Disorders

Not all learning disorders fall into a single, neat category. Many people have a unique type or group of learning difficulties because they cannot process certain kinds of information quickly or because they have problems with visual spatial awareness, memory, or executive function.

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