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Student FAQ

What is a Learning Disability?

A Learning Disability is a persistent condition of presumed neurological dysfunction in which an individual exhibits a significant discrepancy between intellectual ability and academic achievement despite regular instruction and educational opportunity. Symptoms may include poor: fluency, reading comprehension, listening comprehension, speaking, writing, math calculation or reasoning, memorization, concentration, retention, organization, information processing, problem solving, self monitoring, time management.

California Code - Title 5
(Division 6 Section 56036 Chapter 7 Subchapter 1) definition of Learning Disability

  • Average to above average intelligence
  • Severe difficulty in processing information
  • Substantial aptitude-achievement discrepancies
  • Measured achievement in an instructional or employment setting


Learning disabilities are often misunderstood, in large part because the disability is "hidden". Because the disability is essentially invisible, persons with a learning disability are often labeled as lazy, unmotivated, emotionally unstable or stupid. This labeling has often lead to failure in school and illiteracy that perpetuate vicious downward cycles of frustration and despair. If you notice that a person is taking an unusually long time to complete paperwork or any of the symptoms listed in this handout, it is recommended that you refer the students to the LD Specialist.

A Learning Disability is a permanent disorder which affects how individuals with normal or above average intelligence take in, process, retain, or express information. Learning disabilities are presumed to be a neurological dysfunction which continues even with instruction in standard classroom situations. The disability may exist with other disabling conditions. 

What are some of the common characteristics of LD?

All students may have difficulties learning or remembering information from time to time. Just because you have trouble in a class does not necessarily mean you are Learning Disabled. There are several alternatives explanations including but, not limited to: poor study habits, lack of educational opportunity, second language acquisition skill deficits, test, anxiety, head trauma, or history of substance abuse.

There are many characteristics that may signal a learning disability. These characteristics must be present over a long period of time that cannot be attributed to other explanations, you may have a learning disability. See also: list of common characteristics.

A learning disability is not below average ability.