Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities (LDs) are actually a group of disorders, not a single disorder. They affect the brain’s ability to receive, process, store, respond to, and communicate information.

Some individuals, despite having an average or above average level of intelligence, have real difficulty acquiring basic academic skills. These skills include those needed for successful reading, writing, listening, speaking and/or math. These difficulties might be the result of a learning disability.

  • Note– U.S. Department of Education encourages states and school systems nationwide to use the terms dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia when appropriate. Dear Colleague Letter 10/23/15

How is a learning disability identified?

Michigan has established a rule for eligibility under the label of learning disability, and has also has published a more detailed explanation of the Criteria for Determining the Existence of a Specific Learning Disability.

  • Note– In 2010, MDE published “Michigan Criteria for Determining the Existence of a Specific Learning Disability”. This document issued the following requirement of local school districts: On or before September 1, 2010, each local educational agency (LEA) and public school academy (PSA) must publicly post on their web site, or make public through other means, the process or combination of processes which will be used by the LEA or PSA to determine the existence of a SLD. (§ 300.307(b) and § 300.600(d)(2)).

Reading (often called dyslexia)

Writing (often called dysgraphia)

Math (often called dyscalculia)

Non-Verbal Learning Disorder (referred to as NLD or NVLD)

What is executive function?

“Executive Function” is a term used to describe a set of mental processes that helps us connect past experience with present action. We use executive function when we perform such activities as planning, organizing, strategizing and paying attention to and remembering details

Does my child have to first fail in school before he/she gets help?

No.  A student with good grades can still be eligible for special education services. Check out this Wrightslaw article on passing grades and eligibility.

What is Response to Intervention?

RTI is an early intervention strategy within general education and is also one way to identify students who need special education services. RTI cannot be used to delay or deny an evaluation. What are different types of learning disabilities?

Is there some technology that can help my child?

Assistive technology is a related service listed in IDEA. Technology is a key to leveling the playing field for individuals with disabilities. Check out the TechMatrix for suggestions for finding educational and assistive technology products for students with disabilities. Learn more on our Assistive Technology webpage.

Where can I find support?

Families can find support through


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