Common Childhood Learning Disabilities - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

According to the United States Department of Education’s Data Accountability Center, 45 percent of elementary and secondary school students have been diagnosed with a learning disability (LD). Early detection is vitally important so students can receive help and learn to succeed. Here are a few of the common learning disabilities.

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

Children with this disorder have normal intelligence and hearing; however, these students display the following symptoms.

Can not distinguish sound differences
Can not follow multistep directions
Can not remember information given orally
Can not process information quickly
Displays behavioral problems
Displays confusion over syllable sequences
Displays difficulty with spelling, vocabulary, reading and comprehension

Some treatments available are auditory integration training, auditory memory enhancement, auditory trainers, environmental modifications, and language-building skills exercises.


Dyscalculia is when students have difficulty understanding math concepts. The symptoms include:

Confuses the math symbols +, - , ÷, and x.
Unable to understand money and budgeting
Has difficulty with judging the passage of time
Has difficulty with differentiating between right and left
Has difficulty reading a sequence of numbers and transposes numbers frequently
Has difficulty keeping track of the score while playing games
Has difficulty remembering formulas or any mathematical rules and concepts.

The treatment for Dyscalculia focuses on repetition and rhythm. Most Dyscalculia students have excellent auditory skills so carefully listening to instructions helps them.


Dysgraphia is a difficulty conveying ideas through writing and graphing. The symptoms include:

Poor writing skills, such a illegible writing and mixtures of cursive and manuscript, lower and upper case and irregular sizes of letters
Writes unfinished letter or words
Uses an unusual grip on the pencil or pen by holding it very close to the paper, or writes with wrist action
Talks to self while writing
Uses inconsistent punctuation, spells words differently, and guesses on phonics

Treatment encourages students to outline thought or draw pictures before writing. Also students are encouraged to practice keyboarding skills because typing is clearer than handwriting. Finding a comfortable writing instrument also helps with handwriting skills.


Dyslexia is difficulty in processing language, especially in regard to reading. The symptoms or signs of dyslexia are:

Reverses letters and numbers or mirror writes letters
Has difficulty learning the alphabet in order
Has difficulty rhyming words
Has difficulty connecting the letter with its corresponding sound
Mixes up sounds in words with multiple syllables
Reads words in the wrong order when reading out loud

Treatment focuses on learning phonemes, the smallest sounds in words. Many have found listening to books on tapes while reading along helps with distinguishes words and sounds. A reading specialist will help with phonic recognition, vocabulary building, and reading comprehension.


Dyspraxia is difficulty with fine motor skill, such as balance, hand-eye coordination, and manual dexterity. The symptoms and signs include

Has difficulty with coordination and balance
Starts walking or crawling late
Flaps arms and hands while running
Has difficulty with jigsaw puzzles, coloring building blocks, drawing and using scissors
Does not use utensils well—prefers eating with fingers
Does not like dress-up or pretend games
Does not like loud noises
Displays poor social skills
Treatment focuses on physical therapy to improve fine-motor skills; occupational therapy to learn how to work with available skills; and speech therapy to improve communication skills.