How to Identify a Possible Learning Disorder

Updated: Oct 26


According to Statistics Canada, 3.2% of children have a learning disability. A learning disorder is an information-processing problem that affects how a child sees, hears or understands things. In order to diagnose a learning disability, proper testing is required. However, postulating the presence of a learning disability is an important aspect of the assessment process, as it helps divert students towards more conclusive testing.



There are five major components of learning disabilities including: the process component, the language component, the academic component, the neurological component and the exclusion component. These components can be used as the grounds for a hypothesis regarding a possible LD by evaluating behaviours pertaining to each component.



The Process Component


The process component can be understood within three contexts: the perceptual-motor, psycholinguistic and cognitive contexts.


The perceptual-motor element states that higher-level mental functioning is dependent on the motor and perceptual system being developed appropriately. It allows student to process sensory information, such as writing, reading, gesturing and speaking. A student with a learning disability may have trouble with writing that is not up to grade level standard.


The psycholinguistic aspect of the process component refers to an individual’s ability to focus on the different aspects of communication in relation to auditory-vocal and visual-motor channels. This includes the correct use of phonological, syntactical and semantics concepts.


The cognitive piece relates to a student’s attention and memory issues. Students with deficiency in this aspect may have selective attention and short-term memory.



The Language Component


Language component relates to a student’s ability to express themselves orally, and involves learning comprehension and written expression.


In this component, the students language ability is assessed, whether it is below the level of their peers.



The Academic Component


The academic component of a learning disability refers to the academic performance of the student.


Basic reading skills, reading comprehension, mathematics calculation and mathematics reasoning are assessed.



The Neurological Component


The neurological component of LD addresses the notion that the majority of learning disabilities are a result of dysfunction within the central nervous systems.


Issues of concern in this component include conditions such as brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.



The Exclusion Component


The exclusion component notes that a specific learning disability should not be diagnosed if the learning issues are predominantly the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities.


If learning issues are caused by emotional disturbance, environmental, cultural or economic disadvantages, they cannot be deemed a result of a learning disability.



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