How to Identify and Help Adult Learners Facing a Learning Disability

Posted by on December 29th, 2015

Learning disabilities can impact students well into adulthood. Understanding the various learning disabilities, their symptoms and impact on learning will allow you to better identify and work with students within your classroom. Learning disabilities are typically categorized into two sub-categories – Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) and Related Disorders. The list of related disorders includes Memory, Dyspraxia, Executive Order and ADHD. Some of the specific learning disabilities and a few of their symptoms are:

Auditory Processing Disorder

Affects how unimpeded sound is interpreted by the brain

  • Mispronounces, misspells, and confuses similar sounding words; Omits syllables
  • Processes thoughts and ideas slowly with difficulty explaining them
  • Has trouble remembering oral directions and language-related tasks

Language Processing Disorder

Impacts attaching word meaning to sound groups that form words and stories

  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Difficulty gaining meaning and expressing thoughts in verbal formats
  • Shows frustration at a loss for words


Disturbs reading and language-based processing skills

  • Displays error with spelling and decoding, particularly in ordering of the letters
  • Reads slowly with extreme difficulty
  • Substitutes small sight words for one another


Affects ability to understand numbers and learning of math facts

  • Difficulty in utilizing steps of math operations and processes
  • Trouble understanding place value, quantity, and other math related concepts
  • Struggles with sequencing and time related concepts

Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Disorder

Impacts understanding of visual information, drawing and copying

  • Cannot copy accurately
  • Reverses and inverts letters
  • Frequently loses place


Once you understand your students’ disabilities you are able to utilize a number of strategies in your classroom to help support their learning. There are recommended strategies for each SLD. However, you may notice that the strategies address multiple deficiencies and are useful as general best practice for your classroom. The slight accommodations and modifications you make can have a significant influence on your students’ ability to succeed in the classroom. Some SLD strategies include:

Auditory Processing Disorder

  • Show rather than tell
  • Vary pitch, tone and stress of key words when speaking
  • Reword confusing oral and written directions

Language Processing Disorder

  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • Provide visuals and graphic organizers for main concepts
  • Allow a tape recorder for lectures and note taking


  • Provide copies of notes
  • Use audio books
  • Allow use of computer for in class activities (notes, essays)


  • Permit use of scratch paper and fingers
  • Draw pictures for problem solving
  • Use manipulatives

Visual Perceptual

  • Use large print text
  • Use tracking tools for reading
  • Provide alternatives for written assignments; Allow use of computer

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