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Learning Disability Module



Learning is an individual process. All individuals learn somewhat differently and display variations in their preferences and approaches to learning. The fact that someone struggles to read, to express ideas in writing, or to remember new facts does not mean that person has a learning disability. Likewise, the fact that someone is a poor test-taker does not automatically signify a learning disability.

It is important to note that LD is NOT the same as a learning difference. A learning disability is a diagnosable neurological condition (Lindstrom, 2007; Lyon, Shaywitz, & Shaywitz, 2003), and characteristics of the condition can vary across individuals. Often referred to as a hidden disability, LD comprises a heterogeneous group of disorders with several subgroups and classifications.

A learning disability, also referred to as a learning disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2000), affects the way an individual processes information including receiving, manipulating, organizing, sorting, managing, and expressing information (National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, 1991). LD can differentially affect receptive (listening and reading) and expressive (speaking and writing) processes (Gregg, Coleman, Davis, Lindstrom, & Hartwig, 2006; Lerner, 2003). These processing deficits are typically manifested in significantly below average performance in any or all of the following skills: reading, writing, spelling, math, problem solving, reasoning, and interpersonal skills. The most prevalent type of LD is dyslexia which affects reading, often due to a person’s difficulty in decoding the written symbol system (Gregg et al., 2005).

Although a learning disability’s impact is primarily in academic areas important for education including college, it can also affect other elements of an individual’s life such as self-esteem and social engagement. Moreover, LD occurs across the life span and, therefore, continues into adult life (Gregg et al., 2006).



American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-IV-TR)(4th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.

Gregg, N., Hoy, C., Flaherty, D. A., Norris, P., Coleman, C., Davis, M., & Jordan, M. (2005). Documenting decoding and spelling accommodations for postsecondary students with dyslexia—It’s more than processing speed. Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal, 3, 1-17.

Gregg, N., Coleman, C., Davis, M., Lindstrom, W., & Hartwig, J. (2006). Critical issues for the diagnosis of learning disabilities in the adult population. Psychology in the Schools, 43(8), 889-898.

Lerner, J. (2003). Learning disabilities: Theories, diagnosis, and teaching strategies (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Lindstrom, J. (2007). Determining appropriate accommodations for postsecondary students with reading and written expression disorders. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 22(4), 229-236.

Lyon, G. R., Shaywitz, S. E., & Shaywitz, B. A. (2003). Defining dyslexia, comorbidity, teachers’ knowledge of language and reading: A definition of dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 53, 1-14.

National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD).(1991). Learning disabilities: Issues on definition. ASHA, 33(5), 18-20.


Permission is granted to copy this document for educational purposes; however, please acknowledge your source using the following citation:

UDI Online Project. (2011). Learning Disabilities (LD) Module. Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability, University of Connecticut, Storrs. http://udi.uconn.edu/index.php?q=content/learning-disability-module.