Learning differences are not a lack of intelligence or effort; individuals with learning differences are often very bright and creative.  Some may excel in math, but struggle with reading or comprehension. Often there seems to be a disconnect between ability and academic achievement in one or more areas.  Below are signs of a learning difference categorized by academic area. If you recognize these signs in your child, it may be time to get a psychoeducational evaluation and receive individual, targeted strategies and accommodations that will enable them to thrive in school.

Signs of Dyslexia or a Reading Difference

  • Pretends to be reading a book by making up the story based on the pictures
  • Trouble rhyming words
  • Trouble blending sounds into words fluently
  • Mispronounces words with similar sounds and letters
  • Leaves out small words or word ending when reading
  • Substitutes words when reading that look similar or have the same meaning
  • Dislikes and/or avoids reading
  • Poor spelling
  • Must read the text several times to understand
  • Takes longer than typical to complete reading assignments

Signs of Written Expression Disorder

  • Writes simple sentences
  • When asked to write doesn’t know where to start
  • Can express ideas verbally, but not on paper
  • Has difficulty organizing the content
  • Writing often “rambles” and gets off-topic
  • Uses simple vocabulary
  • Makes frequent grammar and punctuation errors
  • The story doesn’t follow a logical sequence

Common signs of Dysgraphia

  • Trouble forming letters
  • Mixing upper- and lower-case letters
  • Spacing lines between letters and words
  • Word float above the lines on the paper
  • Sentences run off the sides of the paper
  • Difficulty coping
  • Difficulty taking notes in class
  • Poor spelling

Common Signs of Dyscalculia or Math Difference

  • Connecting written numbers with groups of objects of the same number 3 = ooo
  • Accurately counting objects one by one
  • Understanding concepts such as greater than and less than
  • Recognizing number patterns
  • Recalling math facts
  • Understanding the language associated with math
  • Estimating time and money

As an adult, do you ever look back to when you were in school and wonder if you may be dyslexic? According to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), if you answer yes to 7 or more of these questions this may indicate dyslexia. An estimated 1 in 10 individuals have dyslexia and many have gone undiagnosed.

  1. Do you read slowly?
  2. Did you have trouble learning to read when you were in school?
  3. Do you often have to read something two or three times before it makes sense?
  4. Are you uncomfortable reading something out loud?
  5. Do you omit, transpose, or add letters when you are reading or writing?
  6. Do you find you still have spelling mistakes in your writing even after Spell Check?
  7. Do you find it difficult to pronounce uncommon multi-syllable words when you are reading?
  8. Do you choose to read magazines or short articles rather than long books and novels?
  9. When you were in school, did you find it extremely difficult to learn a foreign language?
  10. Do you avoid work projects or courses that require extensive writing?

Dyslexia Self-Assessment for Adults taken from the IDA website.

This is the story of my life with learning differences. It encapsulates the last 13 years of my life and will show you what my journey has looked like. My life has been made up of many struggles, with a great majority of them stemming from my learning disabilities. Hopefully I can share with you what it has been like being raised with, and living with, learning differences.

I greatly hope that you will really be able to put yourself in the driver’s seat and get a first-person perspective of what a learning difference can do to a person. That being said, it can also be a gift in many ways. My friends and I who have grown up with this have had many struggles, that is true. That being said, a learning difference is a gift; it is what makes me creative and unique. Because I learn differently, I also think differently; this means thinking creatively or “outside of the box.” Despite all of the difficulties, I have overcome and am better because of it.

4th Grade Tragedy

My journey with learning differences began in 4th grade. The year was almost over and I was excited for summer break. It was either the last day of school or one of the last days of school. I remember being so happy to be moving up to the 5th grade. Near the end of the day, I remember getting called into Mrs. Evan’s office and sitting down after she told me she had something to say. I didn’t have a good feeling about what was about to be said.

She explained to me that I was going to repeat the 4th grade because they thought it was best for me. I was shocked and didn’t know what to say. It made me mad, and of course sad, because I felt no reason to be repeating a grade. It made me believe that I had failed in some way. I was sad about my situation and I was angry at the adults who insisted that I needed to repeat a grade. When I talked to my parents about this, I remember being mad that I was not told by them but by Mrs. Evans instead. They also didn’t have the presence of mind to talk to me about it first before making a decision. I didn’t want to leave my classmates that I was with and didn’t have to start over again and make new friends. That was probably the scariest scenario that I had to face.

The impact of what happened left repercussions for many years. I was unable to trust myself in life and often fell back on the opinions of others. This was because I believed I wasn’t smart enough and wouldn’t do anything right or get the correct answer when I was working. There was a long period of time that I was resentful of my parents but I eventually learned to move forward. I found a new friend base in my grade who I am certain will become life long friends. 

The National Honor Society

When it came time in February to apply for Honor Society sophomore year, my parents tried time and time again to convince me to apply. I was always skeptical about the National Honor Society, because I believed that I was not intelligent enough and that the process would only be a waste of my time. My dad told me “whats the harm in applying, it will look good on a resume.” I still refused and my parents and I argued about it. I told them that I didn’t want to apply and ended up missing the deadline and that was that.

The next year came around and another February with the same discussion. Naturally, because I had no interest I didn’t tell my parents about the application deadline. That only lasted so long until my parents got an email about the application and the same discussion occurred. We talked about it and eventually I gave in to their pleading for me to apply. I filled out the application as best I could and found my references. After that I turned it in to Mr. Cornell, the school’s chapter head, and went about my business greatly believing that I wouldn’t be accepted.

It was not until a couple weeks later that I was in class when I got called down to the front office. I what unsure what it was about and why I got called out of class along with several other students. We were all given envelopes, and inside them was a letter from Mrs. Evans. The letter was my formal acceptance into the National Honor Society. I was overcome with joy when I found out. For so long my learning difference had me believing that I wasn’t good enough or smart enough. Because of this I realized that I was smarter and more intelligent than I gave myself credit for.

Taken from A Life Learned Differently, written by blogger Brooks Arneson.

October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month. As someone who has evaluated many children with a suspected learning difference, I can attest to the fact that there are many misconceptions about this particular one. I’ve prepared this infographic on dyslexia myths as a way to educate and correct the misunderstandings about dyslexia. Now is the time to raise awareness, share resources and tell our success stories! Just click on the graphic for a PDF copy.


Learning differences are discovered and diagnosed at various points in a student’s education, or even as an adult.

In many instances, parents or teachers notice signs of a child’s learning difference at a young age. Some students can mask their learning difference through hard work, until the rigor and demands of the curriculum become too difficult to manage.

Learning differences occur in five to fifteen percent of the population. Research has shown that learning differences are often hereditary. When reviewing testing results, it is not unusual to hear a parent remark, “That sounds just like me!”

What is a learning difference?

A learning difference is often explained as unexpected underachievement in a certain area. For example, the student may be an excellent reader, but struggles in math. Or a student may be able to answer questions when a story is read aloud, but struggles with questions when reading silently.

Students with learning differences are often mislabeled as lazy. In reality, they are students who are bright and articulate but can’t get their thoughts down on paper.  Learning differences are not related to an individual’s intelligence. However, people who have learning differences often have a weakness in one particular area of processing, such as working memory or processing speed.

Often students with undiagnosed learning differences lose confidence and don’t feel like they are as smart as their classmates. This can cause a student to become frustrated and shut down, or act out in class. If you are noticing signs of a learning difference it may be time to have your child evaluated so you can receive strategies and recommendations to help them thrive in school.