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What are Learning Disabilities?

Learning Disabilities (LDs) are: 

  • Specific neurological disorders that affect the brain's ability to store, process, retrieve or communicate information. They are invisible and lifelong.
  • Not the same as an intellectual disability, autism, hearing or vision impairment or laziness.
  • Can be compensated for through alternate ways of learning, accommodations and modifications.
  • Can occur with other disorders (ADHD, etc.) and may run in families.
  • Are manifested by significant weakness in listening, writing, speaking, reasoning, reading, mathematics, social skills and/or memory in a pattern of uneven abilities.
  • Not the result of economic disadvantage, environmental factors or cultural differences.

Reading LDs


Processing LDs

Types of Learning Disabilities

(pronounced: dis lek see uh)

Dyslexia is the most common form of all learning disabilities. It is a language-based disability in which a person has trouble understanding words, sentences, or paragraphs.

People with dyslexia often have problems with processing or understanding what they read or hear. Many dyslexic people are notably talented in arts and music; 3-D visual perception; athletic and mechanical ability.

For more information, visit www.dyslexia.ca

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What is Dyslexia

The True Gifts of a Dyslexic Mind

What is Dyslexia (for elementary school-aged kids)

See Dyslexia Differently (elementary and middle school-aged kids)

What Dyslexia Can Feel Like for Young Children 

(pronounced: dis kal kyoo lee uh)

Dyscalculia is a life-long learning disability that affects the ability to grasp and solve math concepts. People with dyscalculia often have difficulty manipulating numbers in their head and remembering steps in formulas and equations. Just like dyslexia, people with dyscalculia can be taught to achieve success.

For more information visit www.aboutdyscalculia.org.

Helpful videos:

My World Without Numbers - Line Rothmann

(pronounced: dis gra fee uh)

Dysgraphia is a writing disability where people find it hard to form letters and write within a defined space. Many people with dysgraphia possess handwriting that is uneven and inconsistent. Many are able to write legibly but do so very slowly or very small. Typically, people with dysgraphia are unable to visualize letters and do not possess the ability to remember the motor patterns of letters and writing requires a large amount of energy and time.

Helpful videos:

What is Dysgraphia?

(pronounced dis prak see uh)

Dyspraxia is a disorder that affects the development of motor skills. People with dyspraxia have trouble planning and executing fine motor tasks, which can range from waving goodbye to getting dressed. Dyspraxia is a life-long disorder with no cure, but options are available for helping to improve a person's ability to function and be independent. Dyspraxia is not a learning disability, but it commonly coexists with other learning disabilities that can affect learning ability.

For more information visit www.dyspraxiausa.org.

ADHD is a disorder that causes people to lose focus on tasks very quickly. ADHD has two main types, with a third being a combination of the two. Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD is distinguished by an excessive amount of activity. This may include constant fidgeting, non-stop talking, problems with doing quiet activities, trouble controlling their temper, and more. Inattentive ADHD causes people not to put the needed attention into a required task. People with inattentive ADHD may struggle with paying attention to the instruction and excessive daydreaming and may process information slowly, become bored quickly, and be poorly organized. ADHD is not a learning disability, but can cause people to struggle with learning and is commonly linked to other learning disabilities. 

For more information visit www.addititudemag.com/adhd/article/10497

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What is ADHD?
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Auditory processing disorders may cause a person to struggle with distinguishing similar sounds, as well as other difficulties. Auditory processing disorders are not considered learning disabilities by the Canadian Government, but they might explain why someone would be having trouble with learning.

Helpful videos:

What is Auditory Processing Disorder (ADP)?

Visual processing disorders cause people to struggle with seeing the differences between similar letters, numbers, objects, colours, shapes and patterns. Like auditory processing disorders, visual processing disorders are not considered learning disabilities by the Canadian Government but could be an issue when it comes to learning.

Helpful videos:

What is visual processing?

Non-verbal learning disabilities (NLD) are neurological syndromes that develop on the right side of the brain. People with NLD have a very strong verbal ability, remarkable memory and spelling skills, and strong auditory retention; although they possess poor social skills and have difficulty understanding facial expressions and body language. Many do not react well to change and some possess poor social judgement. Some people with NLD have poor coordination, balance problems and difficulty with fine motor skills.

For more information visit www.nldontheweb.org.

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What is Non-Verbal Learning Disorder?

Canadian National Definition of Learning Disabilities

Adopted by the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (January 20, 2002; Re-endorsed on March 2, 2015)

"Learning Disabilities" refer to a number of disorders which may affect the acquisition, organization, retention, understanding or use of verbal or nonverbal information. These disorders affect learning in individuals who otherwise demonstrate at least average abilities essential for thinking and/or reasoning. As such, learning disabilities are distinct from global intellectual deficiency.


Learning disabilities result from impairments in one or more processes related to perceiving, thinking, remembering or learning. These include, but are not limited to: language processing; phonological processing; visual spatial processing; processing speed; memory and attention; and executive functions (e.g. planning and decision-making).

Learning disabilities range in severity and may interfere with the acquisition and use of one or more of the following:

  • oral language (e.g. listening, speaking, understanding);
  • reading (e.g. decoding, phonetic knowledge, word recognition, comprehension);
  • written language (e.g. spelling and written expression); and
  • mathematics (e.g. computation, problem solving).
  • Learning disabilities may also involve difficulties with organizational skills, social perception, social interaction and perspective taking.

Learning disabilities are lifelong. The way in which they are expressed may vary over an individual’s lifetime, depending on the interaction between the demands of the environment and the individual’s strengths and needs. Learning disabilities are suggested by unexpected academic under-achievement or achievement which is maintained only by unusually high levels of effort and support.


Learning disabilities are due to genetic and/or neurobiological factors or injury that alters brain functioning in a manner which affects one or more processes related to learning. These disorders are not due primarily to hearing and/or vision problems, socio-economic factors, cultural or linguistic differences, lack of motivation or ineffective teaching, although these factors may further complicate the challenges faced by individuals with learning disabilities. Learning disabilities may co-exist with various conditions including attentional, behavioral, and emotional disorders, sensory impairments or other medical conditions.

For success, individuals with learning disabilities require early identification and timely specialized assessments and interventions involving home, school, community and workplace settings. The interventions need to be appropriate for each individual’s learning disability subtype and, at a minimum, include the provision of:

  • specific skill instruction;
  • accommodations;
  • compensatory strategies; and
  • self-advocacy skills.

We can help.

The Learning Disabilities Association of PEI exists to advance the interests of people with learning disabilities. LDAPEI can contribute to and support the success of people with learning disabilities. Contact us today to chat about your situation.