Learning Disability (LD) is the result of a neurological disorder which causes the learner to receive and process some information inaccurately. The most common learning disability found in the tertiary environment is dyslexia. Other learning disabilities are dysgraphia and aphasia. LD can have a significant impact on learning.
Research indicates that at least five per cent of tertiary-level students have a learning disability which can cause significant difficulties for perceiving or processing auditory, visual or spatial information. Manifestations of the disability can vary over time. Often, a student who was diagnosed with LD as child will have established avoidance, protective or compensatory strategies, which may not be appropriate at university.
LD is a "hidden" disability. Often, the first indication for staff will be a discrepancy between the knowledge or ability a student demonstrates in class, and results of written assignments or exams.
While making generalisations about any disability is unhelpful and can perpetuate stereotypes, there are a number of characteristics common to students with LD. Difficulties resulting from errors in perceiving and processing information manifest particularly in written work in the form of:
- unusual and inconsistent spellings
- reversals or transpositions of letters in words, or of numbers in figures, formulae and dates
- omission of parts of words or sentences, or omission of auxiliary verbs, pronouns and prepositions
- lack of proper order or demonstrated sequence in writing and mathematical calculations.
Students may also mispronounce or misread words and have difficulty acquiring new vocabulary or a new language. Reading rate is generally slower than average, though not necessarily in all areas. Students may exhibit difficulties in time and task management, and in prioritising and organising generally
Research indicates that making changes and adjusting to new situations is especially difficult for students with learning disabilities. Students may begin university with an unclear understanding of their own disability, though some will be very clear about their particular strengths and weaknesses. It is important to recognise that a student with perceptual or processing impairment will have difficulty with some academic tasks but not with others. Performance may appear uneven.