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Definitions of LD Explained  

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There are a number of definitions of learning disabilities used in the US and in other countries. Bridges to Practice chose the definition of the National Joint Commission on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) in its 1994 revision. That definition is presented below in an annotated format to help you interpret its meaning as applied to adults.

Learning Disabilities Defined

Application to Adults

Learning disabilities is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders

There is neither one type of learning disability nor one profile for adults with learning disabilities. There are many different patterns of difficulties. For example, one adult may have a serious reading disability, while another may be able to read adequately, but not be able to communicate thoughts in writing.

manifested by significant difficulties

All individuals have strengths and weaknesses.  Adults with learning disabilities have serious problems that affect some major functions in the home, community, or the workplace.  For example, an adult may not be able to work at a preferred job because of lack of literacy skills related to learning disabilities.

in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities.

Learning disabilities are specific in nature. Learning problems encompass one or more ability areas (e.g., reading or math) but do not necessarily include all ability areas. They do not represent simply a delay in development.

These disorders are intrinsic to the individual,

Learning disabilities are part of a person’s makeup.  They are not eliminated by changes in the environment, such as increased exposure to literacy events.  Although a person can learn to deal effectively with a learning disability, the learning disability does not go away.

presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction,

Although most adults with learning disabilities will not have a medical diagnosis of neurological disorder, the assumption is that there is some sort of difference or difficulty in how the brain works. Current research is shedding greater light on this area.

and may occur across the life span.

Learning disabilities may be uncovered at different stages of a person's life, depending on many factors. Some factors include severity of the disorder; academic, vocational, and social setting demands; and educators' knowledge of learning disabilities. The symptoms change over time so that a learning disability in a 7-year-old child looks different from that in the same person as an adult.

Problems in self-regulatory behaviors, social perception, and social interaction may exist with learning disabilities

Some adults will have difficulty in self-control, perceiving social situations appropriately, and getting along with other people.

but do not by themselves constitute a learning disability.

The problems described in self-regulation, social perception, and interaction, although often present in adults with learning disabilities, also occur in persons with other disabilities, as well. There are many reasons for these types of problems other than underlying learning disabilities.

Although learning disabilities may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions (for example, sensory impairment, mental retardation, serious emotional disturbance)

A learning disability may be present with other disorders, but these conditions are not the cause of the learning disability. For example, an adult may have a hearing loss along with a learning disability, but the hearing loss is not causing the learning disability. Also, learning disabilities are not related to low intelligence. In fact, most people with learning disabilities are average or above average in intelligence, but the impact of the disability may impair their ability to function well in school, at home, or in the workplace.

or with extrinsic influences (such as cultural differences, insufficient or inappropriate instruction), they are not the result of those conditions or influences.

Although learning disabilities are not the result of inadequate schooling or opportunity to learn, they are often exacerbated by these factors. For example, individuals with learning disabilities sometimes have fewer opportunities to learn in their area of disability; they tend to be challenged less by their teachers and parents. Therefore, by the time individuals with learning disabilities become adults, they are further behind than the learning disability would predict.



How are learning disabilities related to dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a common form of LD. There are several kinds of learning disabilities, defined here by the Learning Disabilities Association of America. Click below to find out more.

Kinds of LD
Reading Disability/Dyslexia Information Processing Disorders
Math Disability/Dyscalculia Motor Planning/Sensory Disorder/Dyspraxia
Writing Disability/Dysgraphia Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder





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