Module 11: Learning Disorders

Boy Frustrated with HomeworkLearning Problems and Disorders

The terms “learning problem” and “learning disorder” generally refer to difficulty mastering basic academic skills such as reading, spelling, and arithmetic.

Learning disorders have been defined as a significant discrepancy between academic achievement in a specific area or subject and general intelligence. This definition has been the subject of some debate, however, because the degree of discrepancy is open to interpretation.1

Children and teens with learning problems and disorders are often rejected by their peers. In addition to academic difficulties, they may have difficulty responding to social cues and may suffer from low self-esteem.

Key Facts:

  • Approximately 5 percent of students between 6 and 17 years of age in the United States are identified as having a learning disorder.2
  • Between 80 and 90 percent of students identified as having a learning disorder have a reading disorder.3
  • Approximately 38 percent of juvenile offenders have a specific learning disorder.4
  • Students in the 6th, 8th, and 10th grades with learning disorders reported lower levels of school satisfaction, greater voluntary absenteeism, and were more likely to abuse alcohol and smoke cigarettes.5
  • As many as 66 percent of children with one or more parents with dyslexia will have significant delays in reading.3


  1. Kavale, K. A., Holdnack, J. A., & Mostert, M. P. (2005). Responsiveness to Intervention and the Identification of Specific Learning Disability: A Critique and Alternative Proposal. Learning Disability Quarterly, 28, 2-16.
  2. Pastor, P. N., & Reuben, C. A. (2008). Diagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning disability: United States, 2004-2006. Vital and Health Statistics, 10 (237).
  3. Christo, C., Davis, J., & Brock, S. E. (2009). Identifying, Assessing, and Treating Dyslexia at School. New York, NY: Springer Science & Business Media.
  4. Magee Quinn, M., Rutherford, R. B., Leone, P. E., Osher, D. M., & Poirer, J. M. (2005). Youth with disabilities in juvenile corrections: A national survey. Exceptional Children, 71 (3), 339-345.
  5. Hogan, A., McLellan, L., & Bauman, A. (2000). Health promotion needs of young people with disabilities: a population study. Disability & Rehabilitation, 22, 352-357.

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