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The Oklahoma Literacy Resource Office

Dept. of Libraries

200 NE 18th St
Oklahoma City,

(405) 522-3205
(405) 525-7804—FAX

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 Literacy Fact Sheet:
Literacy and Learning Disabilities

"I didn't know I was dyslexic until I was 33 years old. I went all the way through medical school without knowing it. Then when I was a resident in Boston, I was dating a schoolteacher who noticed I couldn't read out loud.  My recurring nightmare is that I don't quite make it through that final semester, and I have to return all my degrees".—Delos Cosgrove, MD

Delos Cosgrove, M.D., has been CEO of Cleveland Clinic since October 2004. A cardiothoracic surgeon, Cosgrove has performed more than 20,000 cardiac surgical procedures, and he is noted for his work in minimally invasive valve repair and replacement. He has filed 18 patents for medical devices, including the Cosgrove Mitral Valve Retractor, the Stentless Aortic Valve, the Low Velocity Aortic Cannula and the Cosgrove-Baxter Annuloplasty System for use in heart valve repairs.

What is a Learning Disability?

The following information came from LDOnline.org

    • Learning disabilities are disorders that affect the ability to understand or use spoken or written language, do mathematical calculations, coordinate movements, or direct attention. – National Institute of Neurological Disorders
    • Specific Learning Disability: A disorder in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations. Included in this category are expressive writing disorders and other expressive language disorders.
    • Learning disabilities can be divided into three broad categories: developmental speech and language disorders, academic skills disorders, and other (such as coordination disorders). Each category includes more specific disorders, which are described below.

Dyslexia—A person with dyslexia has average to above average intelligence, but has deficits in visual, auditory, or motor process, which interfere with reading and reading comprehension. The individual may also have difficulties learning to translate printed words into spoken words with ease.

Dyscalculia—A person with dyscalculia has average to above average intelligence, but has difficulty with numbers or remembering facts over a long period of time. Some persons have spatial problems and difficulty aligning numbers into proper columns. Some persons may reverse numbers, and have difficulty in mathematical operations.

Dyspraxia—A person with dyspraxia has problems with messages from the brain being properly transmitted to the body. Though the muscles are not paralyzed or weak, they have problems working well together. Dyspraxia might also cause speech problems, poor posture, poor sense of directions, and/or difficulty with actions such as throwing and catching.

Auditory Perceptual Deficit—A person with auditory perceptual deficit has difficulty receiving accurate information from the sense of hearing (there is no problem with the individual's hearing, just how the brain interprets what is heard) and might have problems understanding and remembering oral instructions, differentiating between similar sounds, or hearing one sound over a background noise.

Visual Perceptual Deficit—The individual has difficulties receiving and/or processing accurate information from the sense of sight; might have a problem picking out an object from a background of other objects or seeing things in correct order.


  • As many as 1 out of every 5 people in the United States has a learning disability.
  • Almost 1 million children (ages 6 through 21) have some form of a learning disability and receive special education in school. In fact, one-third of all children who receive special education have a learning disability (Twenty-Ninth Annual Report to Congress, U.S. Department of Education, 2010).

Signs of LD

It's not always easy to recognize learning disabilities. There is no single indicator or universal profile that fits everyone. However, the following checklist may be helpful. If you or someone you know displays these signs, it may be time to seek additional information or help:

    • Often spelling the same word differently in a single document
    • Reluctance to take on reading or writing tasks
    • Trouble with open-ended questions on tests
    • Weak memory skills
    • Difficulty in adapting skills from one setting to another
    • Slow work pace
    • Poor grasp of abstract concepts
    • Inattention to details or excessive focus on them
    • Frequent misreading of information
    • Trouble filling out applications or forms
    • Easily confused by instructions
    • Poor organizational skills

Everyone has trouble from time to time remembering names, balancing a checkbook, following directions, etc. For most people, these are not problems that they experience on a routine basis. For others, however, problems with learning and applying information interfere with their daily lives. Often, these individuals are not aware that they have learning disabilities. Many struggle for years to learn or perform certain basic tasks without understanding the reason for their difficulties. When they finally discover the cause of their problems is a learning disability, they speak of the relief that this knowledge brings. With this knowledge comes the ability to address the problem, to find ways to work around the disability, and ultimately, to meet success in life.- National Center for Learning Disabilities

An online interactive checklist can provide additional information in identifying possible sign of learning disabilities.


Only diagnostic testing can accurately determine the presence of a learning disability.


Adults with learning disabilities may struggle with low literacy, underemployment, job security, organizational difficulties, and social and emotional challenges such as feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, anxiety and self-doubt.— National Center for Learning Disabilities

Education—Learning disabilities may manifest themselves as difficulties in spoken or written language, arithmetic, reasoning, and organization skills, and will affect adults in adult basic education, literacy, post-secondary, and vocational training settings. Many adults with learning disabilities have achieved academic and vocational success when appropriate accommodations have been provided.

Employment—Adults with learning disabilities commonly make errors in completing employment applications because of poor reading or spelling skills. Some may not reach employment at all. Job-related problems may arise for adults with learning disabilities as a result of their difficulties with tasks that require organizing, planning, scheduling, and/or monitoring; difficulties with language comprehension and expression; poor social skills; and inattentiveness. Accommodation for these problems may increase employability.

Self-Esteem—Being criticized, put down, teased, or rejected because of failures in academic, vocational, or social endeavors over a lifetime often contribute to low self-esteem and depression in adults with learning disabilities. However, some adults with learning disabilities have also shown a tremendous ability to overcome the low self-esteem and achieve great success.

Social Interactions—Adults with learning disabilities may misinterpret others' moods and attitudes and appear to be less sensitive to others' thoughts and feelings.

Independent Living—Basic responsibilities such as writing checks, filling out tax forms, or recording phone messages may present problems for adults with learning disabilities.


Learning disabilities can be a lifelong challenge. Although they won’t go away, they don’t have to stop a person from achieving goals. A learning disability is not a disease, so there is no cure, but there are ways to overcome the challenges it poses through identification and accommodation.

Recommended Resources

National Center for Learning Disabilities

The State of Learning Disabilities: Facts, Trends and Indicators, 2011 (pdf)

LD OnLine


Famous people with learning disabilities

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities

Learning Disabilities Association of America

To contact staff of the Literacy Resource Office, use ODL's Staff Contact Form or Department Contact Form.


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