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NCLD’s Survey of Public Perceptions of Learning Disabilities

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NCLD collected data from a random sampling of 1,980 adults in the United States, evenly distributed across males and females, via an online survey in August 2012. The sampling is representative of the U.S. population with a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Twelve percent of the respondents cited having a learning disability, and eight percent of the parents surveyed have a child with a learning disability.

Results reveal the need for more education about the causes, treatments of, and treatments for learning disabilities, and a better understanding of the rights of learning disabled people in the workplace.

General Knowledge About Learning Disabilities

  • Regarding types of learning disabilities, two-thirds of people do not know what dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and dyspraxia are, whereas most people (91 percent) are familiar with dyslexia.
  • Most people (84 percent) see learning disabilities as a growing issue in the U.S.
  • Though the following celebrities have spoken publicly about their learning disabilities (LD), one-third of the public does not know about the celebrities’ LD:
    • Whoopi Goldberg
    • Bruce Jenner
    • Anderson Cooper
    • Richard Branson
    • Tommy Hilfiger

Learning Disability Diagnosis, Causes and Treatment

  • Most people (62 percent) say diagnosing a learning disability is a joint effort between the child’s pediatrician, parent/caregiver, teacher, and school administrator.
  • Learning disabilities are thought to be diagnosed in early schooling. Over half (53 percent) determined that learning disabilities are diagnosed during grades 1–4, while nearly a quarter (23 percent) think that they’re diagnosed in kindergarten.
  • Nearly eight in 10 people (76 percent) correctly say that genetics can cause learning disabilities.
  • Many respondents (43 percent) wrongly think that learning disabilities are correlated with IQ.
  • Nearly a quarter of respondents (22 percent) think learning disabilities can be caused by too much time spent watching television; 31 percent believe a cause is poor diet; 24 percent  believe a cause is childhood vaccinations (none are factors).
  • Over one-third of respondents think that a lack of early childhood parent/teacher involvement can cause a learning disability.
  • People seem a bit unsure about how to treat learning disabilities. Most (83 percent) say that early intervention can help, but over half incorrectly cite medication and mental health counseling as treatments.
  • Over half of the respondents (55 percent) wrongly believe that corrective eyewear can treat certain learning disabilities.

Life With a Learning Disability

  • Nearly one-third of people incorrectly think that it is lawful for an employer to ask an interviewee if they have a learning disability.
  • Almost all respondents (90 percent) know that it is unlawful for an employer to terminate an employee who is found to have a learning disability.
  • It’s generally accepted (84 percent) that students with learning disabilities deserve individual classroom attention and extra time on tests.
  • Most people (63 percent) know someone who has a learning disability.
  • Nearly one-third of Americans (30 percent) admit to making casual jokes about having a learning disability when someone makes a reading, writing, or mathematical mistake.
  • Nearly half of the parents of children with learning disabilities (45 percent) say that their child has been bullied in the past year.
  • Two-thirds (66 percent) feel that children with learning disabilities are bullied more than other children.
  • Over a third of parents (37 percent) say that their child’s school inadequately tests for learning disabilities.
  • Almost two-thirds of parents (64 percent) say that their child’s school doesn’t provide information on learning disabilities.
  • Some parents of children with learning disabilities (20 percent) say they’re most comfortable consulting the internet for information regarding their child’s learning disability. However, over two-thirds of parents with children with learning disabilities prefer talking to a teacher (67 percent) or pediatrician (62 percent).
  • Most parents of children with learning disabilities (75 percent) believe they could do more to help their child.