Specific Learning Disability

Specific Learning Disability

Specific Learning Disabilities are heterogeneous in nature, often differing markedly from one person to the next. The Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for children with Disabilities in Virginia, effective on July 7, 2009, and reissued on January 25, 2010 (the Virginia Regulations), define the terms as follows.

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), "specific learning disability" means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Such term does not include a learning problem that is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disability, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. (20 U.S.C. § 1401 (3))

Did You Know...

  • Sixty-six percent of students with LD spend 80% or more of their school day in general education classrooms, up from 47% a decade ago. Experiencing most academic instruction within general education is typically associated with better outcomes for students with disabilities. It also reflects a core requirement of IDEA, known as "least restrictive environment," specifying that students with disabilities--to the maximum extent possible--must be educated with their peers who do not have disabilities.
  • Between 12% to 26% of secondary students with LD received average or above-average scores on math and reading assessments, compared with 50% of students in the general population.
  • Between 7% to 23% of secondary students with LD received very below-average scores on academic performance, compared with only 2% of students in the general population.
  • Students with LD earn lower grades and experience higher rates of course failure in high school than students without LD.
  • One-third of students with LD have been held back (retained) in a grade at least once.
  • One in every two students with LD faced a school disciplinary action such as suspension or expulsion in 2011. (Only students served in the category of emotional disturbance received more disciplinary actions.
  • Students with LD have post-high school goals similar to students without LD. However, too few take an active or leadership role in planning for their transition from school.
  • Sixty-eight percent of students with LD leave high school with a regular diploma while 19% drop out and 12% receive a certificate of completion.
  • Black and Hispanic students with disabilities experience much higher rates of school disciplinary actions, higher rates of drop out and lower rates of graduation.

From: The State of Learning Disabilities: Facts, Trends and Emerging IssuesILD.org

Various Types of Specific Learning Disabilities

Dyslexia (Reading Disability)

  • Dyslexia is distinguished from other learning disabilities due to its weakness occurring at the phonological level. Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.
  • International Dyslexia Association - Includes basic and technical information.
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities - The National Center for Learning Disabilities works to ensure that the children, adolescents and adults with learning disabilities have every opportunity to succeed in school, work and life.
  • DyslexiaEd- this site includes interviews with successful students and adults with dyslexia, who offer advice to children and their parents. The content was developed in part with membership from individual state departments of special education. However, this content does not necessarily represent the policy of any individual state department of education or have the endorsement of the federal or state government.
  • October is Dyslexia Awareness month.

Dysgraphia (Written Language Disability)

  • Dysgraphia is a disorder of writing caused by neurological damage. Dysgraphia affects the student's ability to write which requires motor and linguistic skills.

Dyscalculia (Mathematics Disability)

  • Dyscalculia is the inability to understand and remember mathematics concepts, rules, formulas, basic computation skills, and sequence of operations.

Overview of Services

Services for students with Specific Learning Disabilities are offered in all schools and at every level in Prince William County.

Prince William County provides a continuum of services in self-contained classrooms, resource rooms, and in general education classrooms. Services provided in each building are determined by the specific needs of students at that site. Teachers are offered training in strategic instructional and specific reading methodology. Training in the Strategic Instruction Model developed at the University of Kansas is also available. To staff. Some LD teachers co-teach in the regular classroom setting providing special education students with instructional accommodations and curricular modifications. Classes such as Learning Strategies and Compensatory Skills are taught for credit at the high school level. The majority of students with Specific Learning Disabilities graduate with a standard diploma.

Free Workshop on Writing in Middle School

This workshop consists of eight one-hour videos that highlight specific writing strategies in the middle school. It provides support materials, additional resources, and related reading. The series is geared towards general education teachers.

Access free professional development resource.

Related Links and Documents

Virginia Department of Education Resources

Outside Resources

  • Accessible Instructional Materials Center of Virginia (AIM-VA) produces and provides - at no cost to school divisions - accessible instructional and educational materials meeting NIMAS requirements for blind students and those with print disabilities. These materials include core instructional materials, trade books, reading interventions, test preparation materials, etc. in accessible digital formats.
  • LDOnline - dedicated to the education of students with learning disabilities, learning disorders and differences. Parents and teachers of learning disabled children will find guidance on attention deficit disorder, ADD / ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dysnomia, reading difficulties, speech and related disorders.
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities - an effective, easy-to-use resource for people seeking authoritative information on learning disabilities. This website includes information on types of LD, for parents, at school, adults with LD and additional resources.
  • NCLD has a new resource - the LD Navigator, an online, comprehensive, clinical tool, developed by the field's leading experts that enables pediatric professionals and parents to navigate a child's learning disability.
  • National Research Center on Learning Disabilities - addresses the complex issues surrounding proper identification of students with learning disabilities.
  • The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity
  • What is Dyslexia. National Center for Learning Disabilities
  • Learning Ally
  • Dyslexia Help




  • The Dyslexia Checklist: A Practical Guide for Parents and Teachers by Sandra F. Rief and Judith Stern
  • Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz
  • The Dyslexia Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain by Brock L. Eide and Fernette F. Eide
  • Word Callers by Kelly Cartwright
  • Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching by Anita Archer and Charles Hughes
  • Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf


  • The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia by Seedlings Foundations & Shadow Creek Films, 2012
  • Dislecksia: The Movie by Harvey Hubbell V (YouTube)
  • Journey into Dyslexia by Alan and Susan Raymond: HBO Documentary Films, 2011

Additional Resources

Administrative Contacts:

Megan Everett, Supervisor
[email protected]

Veronica Kleinen, Administrative Assistant II
[email protected]