(Reference:  https://www.ldatschool.ca/learn-about-lds/)

Written by Joanne Park, PhD

Learning disabilities, or LDs for short, are due to differences in the brain that impact how someone takes in, stores, recalls, or processes information. They often occur despite average or above average general thinking, reasoning, or problem solving abilities. With LDs, there are underlying difficulties in more basic ‘psychological processes’ which impact academic skills such as reading, writing, and math. These basic psychological processes could include:

  • Phonological processing (being able to identify and manipulate speech sounds, such as being able to identify words that start with the same sound or break a word down into individual sounds)
  • Working memory (being able to hold information in mind while using the information; e.g., holding a list of words and re-ordering them in alphabetical order in your mind)
  • Processing speed (Speed of being able to take in and use information)
  • Language processing (Being able to understand and express information in words)
  • Visual-spatial processing (Being able to perceive or organize visual information; e.g., reading a map)
  • Executive functions (planning and organizing; e.g., being able to plan your week to meet goals)
  • Visual-motor processing (carrying out hand-eye activities; e.g., putting together Ikea furniture)

Each of these processes could impact academic abilities such as:


  • Being able to sound out words (word attack skills)
  • Recognizing words (word recognition)
  • Reading fluently
  • Understanding what is read (reading comprehension)


  • Difficulty with handwriting (illegible writing)
  • Difficulty putting thoughts on paper (e.g., able to share thoughts verbally but struggling when asked to write this down)
  • Organizing written work (e.g., being able to organize how to write a longer essay)
  • Spelling and Grammar (writing conventions)


  • Learning number facts (e.g., basic addition, subtraction)
  • Doing arithmetic and calculation
  • Using symbols in math (e.g., <, >, (), -, +)
  • Understanding visual-spatial relationships

Parents will often see these difficulties with their child when helping them with homework or in the feedback received from teachers (e.g., verbal feedback or report cards). Other signs of a possible learning disability include:

  • Significant avoidance of doing any homework
  • Intense emotions and behavioural problems (e.g., Anger, emotional outbursts, arguments, defiance) particularly when it’s time to do homework
  • Difficulty paying attention or frequent distraction during homework
  • Appearing unmotivated
  • Lack of confidence with school and low self-esteem

If you suspect your child might be struggling with a learning disability, your child may benefit from a psychoeducational assessment. The assessment will help to identify your child’s areas of learning strengths and weaknesses, and will offer recommendations for specific skill instruction, compensatory strategies, advocacy skills, and accommodations that parents and teachers can apply. Sharing this assessment with your child’s educators will help to provide them with guidance on how best to support your child.

If you’d like to learn more about LDs, the website www.ldatschool.ca is a great resource to check out!