Characteristics of Students with Learning Disabilities

Typical characteristics of students with LD are listed below.  These characteristics, taken independently or in combination do not necessarily indicate a learning disability.


  • Confusion of similar words, difficulty using phonics, problems reading multi-syllable words.
  • Slow reading rate and/or difficulty adjusting speed to the nature of the reading task.
  • Difficulty with comprehension and retention of material that is read, but not with material presented orally.


  • Difficulty with sentence structure, poor grammar, omitted words.
  • Frequent spelling errors, inconsistent spelling, letter reversals.
  • Difficulty copying from board or overhead.
  • Poorly formed letters, difficulty with spacing, capitals, and punctuation.

Oral Language

  • Difficulty memorizing basic facts.
  • Difficulty expressing ideas orally which the student seems to understand.
  • Problems describing events or stories in proper sequence.
  • Residual problems with grammar, difficulty with inflectional or derivational endings.


  • Difficulty memorizing basic facts.
  • Confusion or reversal of numbers, number sequence, or operational symbols.
  • Difficulty reading or comprehending word problems.
  • Problems with reasoning and abstract concepts.

Study Skills

  • Poor organization and time management.
  • Difficulty following directions.
  • Poor organization of notes and other written materials.
  • Need more time to complete assignments.

Social Skills

  • Difficulty "reading" facial expressions, body language.
  • Problems interpreting subtle messages such as sarcasm.
  • Confusion in spatial orientation, getting lost easily, difficulty following directions.
  • Disorientation in time, difficulty telling time.

From:  College Students with Learning Disabilities, by Carol Wren, 1985

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