Common LD Terms

ADHD – (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) ADHD often affects people who have LDs, and is beginning to be seen as a type of LD itself. It is also a term that changes very frequently, mostly because there are two distinct subcategories: one sort of ADHD includes hyperactivity, and the other does not. ADHD generally interferes with attention span, impulse control, and (sometimes) hyperactivity.

Auditory Processing – the way we understand information we hear. LDs affecting this process can affect the accuracy of what’s heard, memory of what’s heard, organization of what’s heard, or figure-ground discrimination of sounds.

Cognitive – another way of talking about intelligence. Cognition means thinking.

Dyslexia - a specific learning disability that affect language. Commonly misunderstood to be a condition that causes letters to appear backwards and upside down, but in reality is much more complicated. The bottom line of dyslexia is now thought to be a problem with the sounds in words (phonological awareness).

Dyscalculia - a learning disabilities involving math. Arithmetic involves recognizing numbers and symbols, memorizing basic number facts, aligning numbers, and understanding abstract concepts like time, place value and fractions. Any of these can have serious impact on work and day to day life.

Dysgraphia - a learning disability that affects writing abilities. Writing involves several brain areas and functions and networks for vocabulary, grammar, hand movement, and memory. All these must all be in good working order. So, a writing disorder may result from problems in any of these areas and can manifest itself as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and/or trouble putting thoughts on paper.

Executive Functions - These skills are needed to plan, manage, organize, evaluate things in everyday life as well as school and work.

Fine-motor/Gross-motor control – the ability to accurately use either fine-motor or gross-motor muscle control. Fine-motor muscle control refers to small muscles doing small things – threading a needle, holding a pen. Gross-motor muscle control are large – like dancing or jumping.

Figure-Ground Discrimination – this can refer to visual or auditory information, and describes the ability to distinguish important details from surrounding information. An example of visual figure-ground discrimination would be being able to see the words on a page and ignore a background design. Auditory, is being able to pay attention to a lecture and ignore the sounds of rustling paper and people whispering.

Impulsivity – people with poor impulse control do not always think before they act, or consider the consequences of actions.

Memory (Long-Term) – memory that stores information for later use. For example, the phone number of your best friend or a family member that you have memorized is stored in your long-term memory.

Memory (Short-Term) – memory that holds information briefly while you use it. For example, when you read a phone number and then dial it, the number is held in your short-term memory.

Memory (Working) – memory that holds an idea while you are using it - for example, your working memory holds a formula when you are working on a math problem.

Multisensory Teaching - using many senses (visual/auditory, kinesthetic-tactile) and pathways in the brain simultaneously in order to enhance memory and learning.

Nonverbal LDs – learning disabilities that affect all learning not related to language, including social skills and physical coordination. Also called NLDs or NVLDs.

Organizational Problems – can include problems with managing time, organizing tasks, and organizing space.

Processing Speed – how quickly or slowly a person is able to use, take in, or bring out information. It is not related to cognitive ability – just to speed and fluency.

Phonemic Awareness/Phonological Awareness – the ability to recognize the distinct sounds in words, which is required for further language and reading development.

Social perception – the ability to interpret social situations, for example by ‘reading’ facial expressions, tone of voice, body language and other verbal and nonverbal cues. Individuals who have trouble using social perceptions to guide their behaviour may have social skills difficulties.

Social Skills – the skills we use in society to get along socially. For example, we learn when it is appropriate to interrupt a conversation, and how close to stand to people when we’re chatting. Some LDs interfere with learning these rules, which causes social struggles – loneliness, conflict, awkwardness, etc.

Visual Motor Integration - the ability to use sensory feedback to guide physical movements – what is loosely referred to as “coordination”. A deficit in this area can make it difficult to coordinate large or small movements – catching a ball while running, waving goodbye, to more complex tasks like brushing teeth or copying seatwork from the blackboard. Also known as dyspraxia.

Visual Processing – the way we understand information from our eyes. LDs affecting this can affect the accuracy of what’s seen, memory of what’s seen, understand what’s seen, or figure-ground discrimination.

Visual Tracking – the way we follow a line of text on a page - can also be affected.

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