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Learning Disability

Alfred A. Strauss, M.D., in the 1940s, was the first to describe the behaviors of children now identified as learning disabled or LD. Children and adults with learning disabilities are not mentally retarded or "slow to learn;" rather, most of these individuals have average or above-average intelligence.

For an individual with a learning disability the messages to the brain become jumbled. This makes it difficult for them to learn in one or more of the academic areas; however, they can learn and become successful. For example, you may recognize some of these individuals who had LD: Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Beethoven, Louis Pasteur, Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, and Nelson Rockefeller. They learned to compensate for their difficulties by learning in ways that are different from how other people may have learned.

Experts believe that there are between 6 to 10 million children with some type of learning disability. Research indicates that undetected learning disabilities may be the problem of a large number of children who do not do well in school.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities (http://www.ncld.org/) lists some words commonly associated with learning disabilities that will be helpful as you work with youth with learning disabilities.


As with many other disabilities, there is no one simple explanation that can be given for why a child or adult has a learning disability. Many factors may be responsible for learning disabilities. Some researchers believe that learning disabilities result from complications that occur before, during, or shortly after birth. Males are more likely to have a learning disability than females. Learning disabilities tend to occur in families.


Sometimes parents and others working with youth with learning disabilities are unaware about the disability and may think of the person as lazy, undisciplined, bored, stubborn, spoiled, underachieving, or daydreaming. It is important to remember that an individual with a learning disability usually does not show all the characteristics; likewise, an individual, without a learning disability may exhibit some of the characteristics. Some of the most common characteristics follow.

Help For Leaders

These feelings cause the individual to feel frustrated, discouraged, alone or angry and to have a poor self-image, as well as difficulty with relationships. Be sure to talk about these feelings when they arise.


Please note the University of Illinois Extension does not endorse any products advertised on the following internet sites. Also, the content of these internet links is subject to change, and thus their appropriateness as a resource may also change.

Learning Disabilities Association

The National Attention Deficit Disorder Association

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder - CHADD

Sarkees-Wircenski, M., & Scott, J.L. (1995). Vocational Special Needs. Homewood, IL: American Technical Publishers, Inc.