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Types of Learning Disorders: How to know the difference in learning delays |

Types of Learning Disorders: How to know the difference in learning delays

This post contains information regarding types of learning disorders and comparisons of learning challenges. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.

Many parents and caregivers get confused with the different terminology that is used to describe various learning problems, issues and behaviors. There is a constant bombardment in the media and in the educational sphere of contrasting terms and definitions used to describe possible concerns or questions over a child’s learning habits. Oftentimes, unless otherwise informed, most parents typically go along with a discussion about learning challenges and may later develop a misconception of what they are told.

The situation may be as simple as having a misunderstanding of certain learning terms used when teachers or therapists talk about your child’s performance in the classroom. Not comprehending the difference between specific educational terms can directly affect the help and guidance that you (and others) give your child.

Types of Learning Disorders: How to know the difference in learning delays |

Take learning disability and learning disorder for example. Those terms are often used interchangeably and are frequently mentioned in articles as one in the same. However, as we will show you below, there are slight differences in the two that may make a difference when you are seeking intervention and therapy for your child. Most children with learning disabilities have a number of learning disorders or visible learning challenges that goes with the disability. However, a child with a learning disorder doesn’t necessarily always have a learning disability.

It’s important to know the differences of what a learning disability is and what it is not, especially if a child could potentially be misdiagnosed with another type of learning challenge. If a student is struggling to learn things audibly, what may be investigated is an auditory processing disorder. This could be a learning style conflict because the student may need to learn spatially (visually using pictures) instead of using their auditory (listening to the teacher).

Learning styles are an important topic to observe and study with your children. Each child has a very unique style that may differ from friends, family members and others. Knowing your child’s learning style can assist you in supporting their educational journey and direct your child to appropriate outlets for learning knowledge.

How to recognize what each learning phrase means

Here is a helpful chart that may assist parents in understanding the terms used to describe learning behavior in children.


What it is


Learning Disability
  • Neurological disability that affects the brain directly and can potentially be visible in an MRI scan.
  • Learning disabilities can be genetic or they can be caused at birth, during pregnancy or in an accident where a brain injury occurs.
  • Refers to a weakness in certain academic skills. A person does not lack intelligence, but rather there is a part of the brain that does not process correctly (neurological processing issue).
  • Processing problems that are caused by a learning disability can interfere with learning skills such as reading, math, writing and organization.
  • Learning disability is what makes up a learning disorder.
  • Learning disabilities generally have some type of “label” where learning disorders aren’t always categorized.
  • For indicators of learning disabilities in children, click here.
  • Dyslexia – a language based disability where a person has trouble understanding written words.
  • Dyscalculia – a mathematical disability where a person has difficulty with math concepts and solving number problems.
  • Dysgraphia – a writing disability where a person struggles to form letters or write in a defined space.
  • Nonverbal Learning Disability – originates in the right hemisphere of the brain causing problems with visual-spatial, intuitive and organizational skills.
  • ADHD – a chronic disorder that creates disconnections in the brain which affect attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.
  • Auditory Processing Disorder – neurological defect that affects how the brain processes spoken language (child can’t process instructions or directions).
  • Autism – neurological disorder that has an effect on normal brain function, affecting a person’s communication and social interaction skills.
Learning Disorder
  • Refers to what a person sees as a problem on the outside (difficulties with reading, writing, math, etc.).
  • Does not always have “abnormal” brain functionality like children have with learning disabilities.
  • Typically shows signs of poor balance and coordination and has sensitivity to light, food and sound.
  • Disorders sometimes encompass multiple disabilities or refer to a disability with a term that describes the outward appearance (signs) of the disability.
  • Sensory Processing Disorder – a disconnect with how the nervous system receives messages and turns them into motor and behavior responses (sensitive to light, sound, texture, clothing, food, etc.)
  • Developmental Reading Disorder (DRD) – when there is a problem in areas of the brain that interpret language (tracking words, seeing letters backward, blends sounds to make words, etc.)
  • Developmental Coordination Disorder – disorder where a child can’t plan movements and coordinate muscle groups. The learning of and execution of motor skills are below expected level for age.
  • Developmental Mathematics Disorder – when children reverse numbers and can’t align them properly. Has no relation between different shapes and math concepts.
Learning Curve
  • A learning curve refers to the rate it takes for a child to progress with the development of new skills and gaining experience.
  • A learning curve is how long it takes to learn a subject before it becomes automatic.
  • Trouble with learning curves means information is not retained and doesn’t stick, which creates a learning gap and increases the length of time information is sustained automatically.
  • The amount of time it takes for a child to remember math sequences, times tables, and how to group numbers and shapes.
  • When a child automatically adds periods and grammar to sentences, writes in lower and upper case, and develops correct pencil grip.
  • Remembers letters and sounds, recognizes sight words, can spell words in their head, tracks words on a page.
  • Becomes fluent in the rules of a game or sport, plays an instrument without looking at their fingers, maintains balance and coordination without falling over.
  • A child’s unique approach to learning based on preferences, strengths and weaknesses.
  • Learning style is as exclusive as a child’s fingerprint. There is no right or wrong learning style for a student.
  • Many children use different styles in various circumstances.
  • A child’s learning style is not fixed, it is constantly shifting, but many people have a dominant style that stays with them throughout their lifetime.
  • There are currently seven types of learning styles.
  • Visual (spatial) – the child prefers using pictures, images and learns by observing and watching.
  • Aural (auditory-musical) – the child prefers using sound and music and learns by listening and hearing lectures.
  • Verbal (linguistic) – the child prefers using words in both speech and writing and loves role-playing.
  • Physical (kinesthetic) – the child prefers using the body, hands and sense of touch to learn.
  • Logical (mathematical) – the child prefers using reason, logic and recognizes patterns easily.
  • Social (interpersonal) – the child prefers to learn within a group and is usually a good communicator.
  • Solitary (intrapersonal) – the child prefers to learn and work alone and shows independent play.
  • Measures what a child is capable of accomplishing and achieving in an educational environment when every variable (health, teaching skill, subject interest, emotional well-being, etc.) is at its optimal best.
  • Viewed as a target that is constantly moving depending on the child’s abilities in a certain subject and environment.
  • Unlock a child’s learning potential by doing the following:
  • Study and observe your child’s learning style and create an environment at home where they have opportunities in their preferred approach to learning.
  • Help your child learn how to learn.
  • Set personal learning goals and don’t focus as much on arbitrary tests or measures.

Types of Learning Disorders: How to know the difference in learning delays |

Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs

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