About

What is a Learning Difference?

Did You Know?

  • Learning disabilities are common. Recent studies indicate that approximately 5-10% of American school children have some type of learning difficulty.
  • The most common learning disabilities are language-based, which makes reading, writing, and spelling difficult. Eighty percent of students with learning disabilities find reading a challenge.
  • Difficulty with sensory-motor integration, motor planning and coordination, and executive functioning are common side effects of learning disabilities.
  • Attention disorders such as ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is not a learning disability, although it frequently occurs in tandem with learning disabilities.
Click here to visit Understood.org–an excellent resource for the millions of parents whose children, ages 3–20, are struggling with learning and attention issues.

The Language of Learning Disabilities: A Student Friendly Guide

List of 9 items.

  • Disability/Difference

    • Learning Difference: term used to describe a difference in how an individual is able to “learn” in an academic setting as compared to the majority of students
    • Learning Disability: a legal term with the same definition as “learning difference” and used to ensure that a student has the right to study in a setting that meets her/his individual needs and can access needed accommodations
  • Speech and Language Terms

    • Auditory Processing: listening skills / memory for what you hear
    • Receptive Language: making sense of oral and/or written language
    • Expressive Language: putting thoughts and ideas into words
    • Word Retrieval: finding the right words within an appropriate amount of time
    • Language Organization: clearly explaining your ideas
    • Non-Verbal Communication: communication with face, body tone of voice and gesture
  • Reading Terms

    • Dyslexia: the physical/visual aspect of reading words
    • Fluency: the ability to recognize words automatically and to read accurately with appropriate speed and expression
    • Decoding: is the ability to apply the knowledge of letter-sound relationships to correctly pronounce written words
    • Reading Comprehension: the ability to construct meaning from text
  • Math Terms

    • Dyscalculia: difficulty with numbers Applications
    • Number Sense: the relationship between numbers
    • Mental Math: solving math calculations using only the brain, without paper, pencil, calculator
    • Spatial Skills: being able to judge where things go and being able to use appropriate spacing
    • Applied Problem Solving: Being able to use notes/knowledge to solve problems
    • Estimation: an educated, realistic guess
    • Operations: a process performed in a specific sequence: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
    • Mental Number Line: knowing the correct sequence of numbers without using a visual reference
    • Higher-order Thinking/Reasoning: being able to go beyond concrete thinking
    • Calculations: performing operations
  • Handwriting Term

    • Dysgraphia: difficulty with handwriting
  • Occupational Therapy Terms

    • Visual perception (visual memory, visual closure, figure ground): using your eyes to help interpret and understand what you see
    • Organization of Physical Space: keeping all your work on your desk and in your room in order so that you can easily locate what you need
    • Ocular Motor Skills (visual scanning and tracking): Smoothly moving your eyes back and forth to help keep your place when reading and copying words
    • Endurance (of hand, body, etc.): the ability to sustain a physical position or movement without getting tired
    • Visual Motor Skills (eye/hand coordination): using your eyes and hands together to be successful, such as catching a ball, tying your shoes, writing)
    • Motor Planning: figuring out how to smoothly move your body from one place to another
    • Posture: keeping your body sitting up or standing up straight when doing an activity
  • Sequencing

    Understanding and expressing in the correct order: language, numbers, letters, words, ideas, movements, steps
  • Executive Functioning Terms


    Executive Functioning: Skills required to get “something” done: planning, starting, problem solving, self-monitoring, prioritizing, self-advocating, sustaining focus, organizing ideas and materials, time management, completing, handing in final work

    •  Planning:
    • Thinking of when, where, and how to do a task
    • Estimating how long a task will take
    • Gathering necessary materials
    •    Problem Solving: being able to think of alternatives when there is a problem:
    • Rearranging schedules as needed
    • Self-advocating for help when needed
    •    Self-monitoring:
    • Checking on whether or not you are focused
    • Checking on whether or not you have done all the necessary steps
    • Checking on whether all is organized and complete
    •   Prioritizing: being able to decide what needs to be done first: whether it’s steps in a process, homework assignments, or daily activities
    •   Self-advocating:
    • Speaking up to express concerns or opinions
    • Seeking help or explanations when needed
    • Explaining whatever it is that you need to tell someone with regard to meeting academic demands
    •    Sustaining Focus: being able to concentrate long enough to complete a task
    •    Organizing Ideas & Materials: putting and keeping thoughts and materials in order
    •    Time Management:
    • Estimating the time a task will take
    • Planning when to do a task so that it can be completed on time
    • Reassessing and making changes in time allotment as needed
    • Memory Terms:
    • Short-term Memory: remembering what you were just exposed to (30 to 60 seconds)
    • Working Memory: keeping things in your memory while attending to something else
    • Long-Term memory: remembering everything you know
  • Attention Deficit HyperActivity Disorder (ADHD)

    Difficulty with concentration, controlling impulses, and attention; also, often difficulty sitting still, a need to be constantly in motion

    ADHD Terms:
    • Impulsivity: acting or speaking without thinking
    • Distracted: difficulty sustaining focus; easily off task

Remove the Stumbling Blocks

If your child struggles with learning or performance difficulties, The Lab School of Washington can unlock the door to success. In addition to exceptionally successful teaching methods, we offer a full range of Student Support Services, such as Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy, and Psychological Services, each integral to academic success. Each of these departments also offers Outpatient Services including evalutation and testing.
The Difference is Extraordinary
The Lab School of Washington
4759 Reservoir Road, NW | Washington, DC 20007-1921 | 202-965-6600