Learning Disability

LDAO’s Definition of Learning Disabilities

“Learning Disabilities” refers to a variety of disorders that affect the acquisition, retention, understanding, organization or use of verbal and/or non-verbal information. These disorders result from impairments in one or more psychological processes related to learning*, in combination with otherwise average abilities essential for thinking and reasoning. Learning disabilities are specific not global impairments and as such are distinct from intellectual disabilities.

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

  • oral language (e.g., listening, speaking, understanding)
  • reading (e.g., decoding, comprehension)
  • written language (e.g., spelling, written expression)
  • mathematics (e.g., computation, problem solving)

Learning disabilities may also cause difficulties with organizational skills, social perception and social interaction.

The impairments are generally life-long. However, their effects may be expressed differently over time, depending on the match between the demands of the environment and the individual’s characteristics. Some impairments may be noted during the pre-school years, while others may not become evident until much later. During the school years, learning disabilities are suggested by unexpectedly low academic achievement or achievement that is sustainable only by extremely high levels of effort and support.

Learning disabilities are due to genetic, other congenital and/or acquired neuro-biological factors. They are not caused by factors such as cultural or language differences, inadequate or inappropriate instruction, socio-economic status or lack of motivation, although any one of these and other factors may compound the impact of learning disabilities. Frequently learning disabilities co-exist with other conditions, including attentional, behavioural and emotional disorders, sensory impairments or other medical conditions.

For success, persons with learning disabilities require specialized interventions in home, school, community and workplace settings, appropriate to their individual strengths and needs, including:

  • specific skill instruction;
  • the development of compensatory strategies;
  • the development of self-advocacy skills;
  • appropriate accommodations.

* The term “psychological processes” describes an evolving list of cognitive functions. To date, research has focused on functions such as:

  • phonological processing;
  • memory and attention;
  • processing speed;
  • language processing;
  • perceptual-motor processing;
  • visual-spatial processing;
  • executive functions; (e.g., planning, monitoring and metacognitive abilities).

The above definition of learning disabilities has been printed with permission from www.ldao.ca the official website of the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada (416) 929-4311; Fax (416) 929-3905.

“LD@home knows that living with LDs can have its challenges, but here you’ll find support from experts and our team, as well as inspirational stories to help guide you on your journey.”

LD@School (English) and TA@L’école (French)
“LD@school is the first resource of its kind dedicated to serving the needs of Ontario’s educators. It provides educators with information, resources and research related to teaching students with learning disabilities.”

LD On-line (American website)
“LD OnLine.org is the world’s leading website on learning disabilities and ADHD, serving more than 200,000 parents, teachers, and other professionals each month.”

Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC)
LDAC is “the national voice for persons with learning disabilities and those who support them… LDAC accomplishes these goals through public awareness about the nature and impact of learning disabilities, advocacy, research, health, education and collaborative efforts.”

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario (LDAO) 
“Our mission is to provide leadership in learning disabilities advocacy, research, education and services and to advance the full participation of children, youth and adults with learning disabilities in today’s society.”

Putting a Canadian Face on Learning Disabilities (PACFOLD)
“PACFOLD is a groundbreaking applied research study that started in 2004 by the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC)… the goal of the research was to find out what it means to be a child, youth or adult with learning disabilities in Canada.”

National Center for Learning Disabilities (American website)
“The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) improves the lives of all people with learning difficulties and disabilities by empowering parents, enabling young adults, transforming schools, and creating policy and advocacy impact” in the United States.