Education and Early Childhood Development

Learning Disability

Definition

According to the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (2002), 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)
  • mathematics (e.g., computation, problem solving)

Learning disabilities may also involve difficulties with organizational skills, social perception, social interaction and perspective taking.

Specific learning disabilities include:

  • Reading Disorder
  • Disorder of Written Expression
  • Mathematics Disorder
  • Nonverbal Learning Disability

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Services

A student diagnosed with a learning disability by a qualified assessor may require a range of school based services depending on level of functioning and need. Programming decisions are made by the student's program planning team and may include accommodations, and alternate non curricular or pre-requisite programs. In extreme cases, modified prescribed or alternate courses may be required. Caution must be exercised regarding modified prescribed or alternate courses (below grade level) may adversely impact graduation and post-secondary options.

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