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What is a learning disability?

The Learning Disability Association of America defines a learning disability as a “neurological condition that interferes with one’s ability to store, process or produce information.  Learning disabilities can affect one’s ability to read, write, speak, spell, compute math, reason and also affect a person’s attention, memory, coordination, social skills and emotional maturity.” (

LDA states that someone with a learning disability might display some (not necessarily all) of the following characteristics:

  • Confuses numbers and letters when reading and/or writing
  • Struggles comprehending oral and/or written language
  • Hears sounds, words, sentences incorrectly
  • Reads well but doesn’t write well, or vice-versa
  • Can express ideas orally but not in writing
  • Struggles with writing (sentence structure, writing mechanics, grammar, spelling and organizing ideas)
  • Struggles remembering math facts
  • Struggles remembering and following sequential, multi-step math procedures
  • Struggles with memorization
  • Has a short attention span
  • Has poor social skills

What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, ADHD is a neurological condition that interferes with the brain’s executive functioning (efficient management of one’s thoughts, emotions and actions), manifesting itself in a persistent pattern of inattention, impulsivity and/or hyperactivity that significantly hinders daily functioning. (

Both the Attention Deficit Disorder Association and Dr. Ed Hallowell, director of  the Hallowell Center (, state that someone with ADHD might display some (not necessarily all) of the following characteristics:

  • Struggles inhibiting impulses
  • Struggles becoming and remaining organized
  • Struggles focusing and sustaining attention and effort until task is completed
  • Searches for high stimulation
  • Has low tolerance for frustration and boredom
  • Juggles many projects simultaneously
  • Struggles following established procedures
  • Is often creative, intuitive and intelligent
  • Is often physically and/or cognitively restless
  • Worries Excessively
  • Has low self-esteem

Additional signs of a possibly undiagnosed Learning Disability or ADHD:

  • Parental over-involvement in daily life to remind, plan and problem-solve
  • History of working with tutors or needing informal classroom adjustments prior to college
  • Slower at completing work compared to others
  • Grades do not reflect the extent of studying
  • The presence of depression, anxiety, substance abuse or other emotional problems––conditions often coexisting with LD and ADHD
  • Family history of LD and/or ADHD