A learning disorder is a condition in which an individual experiences substantial and undue difficulties in specific academic tasks. Such difficulties are not fully explained by any deficits related to intelligence, attention, emotional issues, or other problems. The difficulties are evidenced in performance on academic tasks, but do not need to occur in every academic area; the American Psychiatric Association recognizes these conditions as Specific Learning Disorders since they correspond to deficits in one or more specific academic areas.
Types of Learning Disorders
Specific Learning Disorders can take many forms and these include disorders which impact performance in reading, writing, and mathematics. Each of these subjects can be conceptualized in series of smaller areas and a Specific Learning Disorder can impact one of these smaller areas, or multiple smaller areas. For instance, consider the task of reading. Several problems can occur when people read. They might have trouble identifying words as they look at the combinations of letters. They might have trouble retaining the information that they read. They might have neither of these problems, but may still process the written information at a slower pace compared to their peers. Psychological testing for Specific Learning Disorders involves tasks which isolate these smaller areas. Testing in this way allows an examiner to more fully evaluate the various forms that these disorders can take.
Learning Disorders and Intelligence
Intelligence is a concept which describes how effectively one can interact with their environment. Some of the stigma associated with Specific Learning Disorders might falsely lead some to assume that individuals with learning disorders are not intelligent. Such is not the case. In fact, if an individual’s intelligence is low enough to fully explain her academic impairment, such an individual would not be classified as having a Specific Learning Disorder. Because of this (and other reasons), intelligence testing is part of a full learning disorder evaluation. A thorough test of intelligence can yield information regarding an individual’s verbal skills, spatial reasoning, short-term memory, processing speed, and other important areas. These areas can be important factors when analyzing the possible presence of a Specific Learning Disorder.