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Learning Disabilities Basics

Learning about Learning Disabilities - What Are Learning Disorders icon_podcastsThe following is a transcription of the podcast, “Learning Disabilities Basics (audio).”

In this podcast, NCLD’s Dr. Sheldon Horowitz, answers common questions on the basics of learning disabilities. Learn about how learning disabilities are identified and specific ways executive functioning and executive processing relate to learning disabilities.

This is the first in a three-part series developed with the Student Success Collaborative.



Karen Golembeski: Welcome to this installment of the Student Success Collaborative podcast series on learning disabilities. This podcast and the Student Success Collaborative are generously funded by the Cisco Systems Foundation. The Student Success Collaborative consists of partners City Year, Silicon Valley Education Foundation, Teachers without Borders, One Global Economy, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

My name is Karen Golembeski and I’m the assistant director of education programs at the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and with me today is my colleague, Dr. Sheldon Horowitz, and he is the director of LD Resources and Essential Information at NCLD.

Welcome Dr. Horowitz.

Sheldon Horowitz: Thank you very much.

Karen Golembeski: Today we have some questions that have been sent in to us through the Silicon Valley Education Foundation’s network of educators in Silicon Valley out in California, as well as the U.S.-based teachers that are connected to Teachers without Borders. So we’re going to start today with some questions on the basics of learning disabilities and we’re hoping that you can shed some light on what learning disabilities are and help us gain a better understanding for how to appreciate when people have a learning disability.

Sheldon Horowitz: It would be my pleasure. Let me begin by saying something about learning disabilities in general and share a little bit of information about how they are different from other types of disabilities. The words “learning disabilities” or the phrase “LD” is a name that we give not to a specific disorder but rather to a group of disorders. And this umbrella term, meaning a group of different disorders, points to specific disabilities, specific weaknesses, in the ability to do reading and writing and math and spelling and other kinds of skills that are needed to succeed in school. Whatever the areas of weakness, a person with a learning disability is of at least average intelligence and the reason for their difficulties is unexpected. LD is not the result of poor teaching. It’s not the result of laziness. It’s not the result of poor motivation. Each person with learning disabilities processes information in their own special kind of way and the more they know about what they need to succeed and the better we know as teachers and parents about what they need to succeed, the better they’ll be to work around or even in some cases to overcome the challenges of LD.

Another important thing, distinction that needs to be made is that learning disabilities sometimes occur or co-occur with other disorders like ADD or ADHD. Now let me say that these are two different disorders: LD and ADHD are two different disorders that, however, share some characteristics. So for example, a student with LD and another student with ADHD who doesn’t have LD, can both have a hard time absorbing information spoken aloud by a teacher in a classroom or might struggle extracting information from written passages in a textbook. In terms of how it is that you understand a learning disability or what some of the features of a learning disability are, I would urge everyone to visit the LD.org website and download and view and share and spend some time looking at NCLD’s LD Checklist. It is the best-in-the-business overview of some of the risks and some of the characteristics of LD, spanning from the very early years right through adulthood. And as an aside, I would say please visit the website frequently and look for a soon-to-be-released checklist that’s personalized for Spanish-speaking families as well. So, that’s coming soon.