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What is a specific learning disability?

What is a specific learning disability?

Published: Dec. 6, 2022

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines a specific learning disorder as “a type of neurodevelopmental disorder that impedes the ability to learn or use specific academic skills (e.g., reading, writing, or arithmetic), which are the foundation for other academic learning.”

Children identified by their school district as having a specific learning disability — one of thirteen categories that make a child eligible for an IEP — can receive services accordingly. But not all learning disabilities that a school recognizes would be necessarily categorized by the DSM-5 as a learning disorder.

IDEA lists the following as specific learning disabilities: perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The DSM-5 lists three: dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia.

For more information about getting support for students with learning disabilities, check out our article Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) 101.

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