How does dyslexia compare to other learning disabilities?

According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA), learning disabilities (LD) are “neurologically-based processing problems.” They “can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing and/or math” and “can interfere with higher level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short term memory and attention.” The term learning disabilities is an umbrella that describes a number of more specific LDs that include dyslexia, dysgraphia, and language processing disorder.

How does dyslexia differ from other LDs? Below, we describe a few different types of LDs, including dyslexia:

  • Dyslexia affects reading and related language-based processing skills, whose severity can differ in each person and can affect reading fluency, decoding, reading comprehension, recall, writing, spelling. It can sometimes affect a person’s speech and can exist along with other related disorders. It is sometimes referred to as a language-based LD.
  • Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder, adversely affects how sound is processed or interpreted by the brain. People with APD may not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, including when the sounds are loud and clear. People with APD can find it difficult to tell where a sound is coming from or to make sense of the order of sounds. They also find it difficult to block out competing background noises.
  • Dysgraphia affects a person’s handwriting ability and fine motor skills. People with dysgraphia may have illegible handwriting, inconsistent spacing, poor spatial planning on paper, and poor spelling. They may also have difficulty composing their writing; for example, they may have difficulty writing a letter or essay.
  • Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities (NVLD or NLD) are neurological conditions that are characterized by a huge discrepancy between higher verbal skills and weaker motor, visual-spatial and social skills. People with NVLD have trouble interpreting nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions or body language, and may have poor coordination.
  • According to the American Psychiatric Association, Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) is “a developmental disorder that begins by school-age, although it may not be recognized until later.” SLD involves ongoing problems learning key academic skills, such as reading, writing, and math. SLD may impact the reading of single words, reading comprehension, writing, spelling, math calculation, and math problems.

According to Dyslexia Help at the University of Michigan, dyslexia is thought to be the most common language-based LD and is the most common cause of reading, writing, and spelling difficulties. It is estimated that 5-10% of the US population has dyslexia. However, it could be as high as 17% of the population. There is no cure for dyslexia. With support, instruction, and hard work, many people with dyslexia are able to succeed academically and at work.

If you suspect that your child has dyslexia or any other type of LD, please contact your child’s pediatrician. If you have any questions about dyslexia or other LDs or if you require resources, please contact NARIC’s information specialists by email, chat, or by calling 800/346-2742.

About mpgarcia

I'm the Bilingual Information/Media Specialist at NARIC.
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