Learning Disabilities

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What are learning disabilities?

Learning disabilities are disorders that affect the ability to:

  • Understand or use spoken or written language
  • Do mathematical calculations
  • Coordinate movements
  • Direct attention

Learning disabilities occur in very young children, yet they are usually not noticed until the child reaches school age. Learning disabilities can be lifelong conditions. In some people, several overlapping learning disabilities may occur. Other people may have a single, isolated learning problem that has little impact on their lives.

The most common treatment for learning disabilities is special education. Specially trained teachers may perform a formal assessment to understand the child's academic and intellectual potential. They will also look at the level of academic performance. Once the evaluation is complete, the basic approach is to teach learning skills by building on the child's abilities and strengths while correcting disabilities and weaknesses. Other professionals such as speech and language therapists also may help. Some medications may help the child learn by enhancing attention and concentration. Psychological therapies may also be used.

Learn About Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are studies that allow us to learn more about disorders and improve care. They can help connect patients with new and upcoming treatment options.

How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with learning disabilities?

Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about learning disabilities and related disorders. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.

For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with learning disabilities at Clinicaltrials.gov.

Where can I find more information about learning disabilities?

The following organizations and resources help individuals, families, friends, and caregivers of people living with learning disabilities:

Order publications from the NINDS Catalog
The NINDS Publication Catalog offers printed materials on neurological disorders for patients, health professionals, and the general public. All materials are free of charge, and a downloadable PDF version is also available for most publications.