Classroom Advice for Teachers: Dealing with 13 Types of Specific Learning Disabilities

Placement of a student in your classroom after receiving a diagnosis of one of the 13 types of specific learning disabilities (SLD’s) may leave you scratching your head as to what the name actually means and how to modify lessons and extend accommodations for it.

When a person is learning disabled, they present weakness in the areas of memorizing, producing information (output), organizing it, or taking in information (input). Across learning environments, teachers should know how to deliver services to students to the highest efficacy attainable even where disability names are unfamiliar to the instructor and the IEP team as a whole. In this article, find the names of SLD’s, their characteristic, classroom strategies to address characteristics, and associated disorders.

Auditory and Visual Processing Disorders

Auditory processing disorders-(APD)

Another name for APD is (Central) Audio Processing Disorder (C)APD where the brain’s centers for processing sound are impaired in some way making it difficult to distinguish one sound from another. This set of disorders is not the same as hearing impairment as the problem is not in the inner ear.


  • Trouble recalling information
  • Problems with multi-part oral instructions
  • Although there is no problem with hearing, a need to hear sounds at a higher volume may be present
  • Difficulties with background noises in crowded spaces
  • Would rather read than listen for expressed communication

Classroom Strategies

  • Work with the student on their language skills after conferring with the IEP team to include an audiologist for explicit guidance based on goals and ability.
  • Preferential seating.
  • Adjust acoustics within the environment.
  • Transmit sound through headphones to relay information in the classroom.

Visual Processing Disorders-(VPD)

Types: spatial relationships, motor processing, discrimination, figure-ground, sequence, visual memory, and closure

Generally, VPD has to do with how a person takes in information visually. In some way, their brain processes what they see in a distorted manner to affect learning.


  • Confused when reading letters that are similar in structure, i.e. b/d p/q
  • Unable to tell one symbol or character from another
  • Cannot recognize parts of an object if the whole object is not presented
  • Only able to see either the pieces of an object or only the object as a whole

Classroom Strategies

  • Use using audio for class reading instead of solely relying on text.
  • Replace lined paper with raised, lined paper for writing assignments.
  • Block text to focus attention on important words.
  • Enlarge print on all written material.


A hearing disorder affecting the way a person processes sound particularly the pitch, quality, or tone of sounds in speech to the point of causing irritation making it difficult to gather meaning from spoken words.

Associated disorders

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)


With this learning disorder, speaking is at the forefront of the student’s performance problems due to damage in the muscles used in producing speech.


  • Slow talking with poor articulation
  • An inability to control speech volume
  • Lack of control over breathing while speaking

Classroom Strategies

  • Ask the student to take a breath before talking.
  • Using an alternative system of communication, i.e. Sign language or picture symbols.

Associated Disorders


Articulation Disorder


Commonly referred to as the math learning disability, dyscalculia is a set of learning differences affecting each person differently in school and abroad as a result of brain injury. The reason dyscalculia is an umbrella term is that there are various learning disabilities with different effects. If a person has VPD, they are likely to have a problem in math. A better way to define dyscalculia is to call it a problem that hinders learning and understanding math concepts.


  • Major problems with simple foundations in math such as remembering numbers
  • Poor retention of math facts
  • Cannot transport retained facts onto paper
  • Completing complex math applications is a major problem due to other complications in learning math

Classroom Strategies

  • Incorporate multiple methods of relating math facts to students.
  • Use graphing paper to help with organization.
  • Take care to break down math in a way that everyone can understand it.
  • Remove all distractions from the learning or study environment.

Information on dyscalculia testing

Dysgraphia- (commonly called Agraphia)

A learning disorder which affects writing because of poor motor skill function in either hand or both. Reading ability is not a factor in identifying dysgraphia.


  • Struggles with writing letter shapes
  • Writes letters too large
  • Misspelled words although proper spelling is known

Classroom Strategies

  • Encourage students to use outlines for writing assignments.
  • Have the student record ideas prior to writing as a guide.
  • Allow for typed assignments in place of handwritten ones.
  • Use game play to help with spelling, i.e. Scrabble.
  • Create smaller spelling lists as a modification.

Associated Disorders

Tourette’s syndrome

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)


Specific dysgraphia interventions


A disorder with spastic movements resulting in significantly, poor coordination and clumsiness in the person afflicted. These movements, caused by brain impairments, are excessive in the limbs, feet, lips, tongue or any part of the body including the torso. Dyskinesia is classifiable under various types.


  • Random movements of the mouth affecting speech
  • Freezing in place for a short period of time while completing tasks
  • Uncontrollable foot tapping, lag swinging, or foot stomping
  • In extreme cases, involuntarily punches or kicks

Classroom Strategies

  • Consult with the student’s education team on specific treatment techniques for in class intervention such as the use of blue lenses for students with l-DOPA (Levodopa) Dyskinesia.

Associated Disorders

Parkinson’s disease


A language disorder where reading ability is impaired in the areas of comprehension, fluency, and decoding unrelated to disorders not neurobiological in nature where IQ is not a factor.


  • Consistent issues with reading symbols
  • Significant difficulty in matching letters to their sounds
  • Slow, oral reading with several mistakes
  • Serious problems learning to spell

Classroom Strategies

  • Use unconventional methodologies for developing phonemic awareness.
  • Teach self-advocacy and build confidence on a regular basis.
  • Provide visual cues where possible.
  • Use assistive devices, both low and high tech, to help with writing and reading.
  • Take a multisensory approach to the delivery of each lesson.

Dyslexia and the brain


An impairment of a person’s ability in verbally sending messages due to illogical thought associated with mental illness.


  • Rhyming speech
  • Echolalia
  • Slowed speech
  • Rapid speech indicative of disturbance in psyche
  • Speech that bears no connection to the topic at hand

Classroom strategies

  • Solicit suggestions from psychologists and other mental health care providers on the student’s educational team for specific techniques for daily instruction.


An inability to recall certain words to express thought as an auditory memorization problem.


  • Great difficulty beyond the occasional problem of an inability to find the right word when speaking
  • Disturbances seen in daily living through nonsensical, expressed language
  • Good long term memory, but lacks the power to recall it
  • Freezing up when asked questions, but free flowing with information in subjects of familiarity

Classroom Strategies

  • Place students in situations where their particular skill or knowledge in a subject is spotlighted.
  • Exercise short-term memory by exploiting visual memory strengths.
  • Play guessing games to name objects and pictures.
  • Start sentences to let the student finish them.
  • Give visual clues when speaking to the student.
  • Decrease frustration by avoiding finishing the student’s sentences for them.

Dysphasia-(also known as Aphasia)

A language disorder, evolving from environmental forces, evident by a student’s high level of inadequacy in reading comprehension and outstanding struggles when speaking.


  • Trouble speaking to relay meaning in an effective manner
  • Cannot label objects or pictures properly
  • Cannot get meaning from language such as jokes
  • Poor reading comprehension skill

Classroom Strategies

  • Speak slowly when talking and in short sentences.
  • Provide peer tutoring.
  • Write main topics of the lesson on the board before starting.
  • Include visual support tools for learning.
  • Allow note taking by tape recorder.
  • Use story mapping.


A disorder, other than stuttering, where there are substantial deficits in rhythm of speech or a lack of rhythm in movement caused by an irregularity in brain waves.


  • Short attention span
  • Easily distracted
  • Wide range of IQ subtest scores

Classroom Strategies

  • Work closely with specialists as part of the IEP team with incorporating suggested techniques in the classroom.


A definition of this disorder is not available, but to meet IDEA requirements, the student must have the first three of the characteristics listed below.


  • Poor social skills
  • Very, early reading ability
  • Serious problems with speaking and using spoken language
  • Highly gifted and commonly misdiagnosed as having Asperger’s syndrome, hyperactive, ADHD/ADD, hearing impaired, or simply language delayed among other disorders.

Classroom Strategies

  • Use social stories and play to build social skills.
  • Work on the student’s language and comprehension skills with help from the student’s speech-language pathologist.
  • Take advantage of reading ability to build language readiness.
  • Apply visual learning methods to instructional models.

Non-verbal learning disorders-(NLD)

NLD, or NVLD, is characterized by an inability to work with abstract concepts such as jokes, idioms, or nonverbal cues. A student with this difference in learning will need help with adjusting to new situations and translating meanings across different situations.


  • Organizing information is a major problem due to visual-spatial problems as well as recalling visual information.

Classroom Strategies

  • Give students the space and tools for organizing information in either a horizontal or a vertical sorter to address their specific issues.
  • Color-coding all work.
  • As a rule, always seek and use the advice of parents on specific strategies that have worked with the student at home and in the community.


Though people with ADHD/ADD have difficulties in the classroom, these disorders are not categorized as LD. The IDEA classifies ADHD/ADD necessary of special education services in instances where the disorder is chronic and pervasively affects one’s health as “other health impairment”. Researchers point to the imbalance in chemicals in the brain that help to control behavior as the cause of ADHD/ADD.

Beyond the 13 Types

Upwards of 20 SLD have been identified based on the federal definition of the term. Although the incidence of placement of a student with one or more the lesser-known learning issues decreases by a number of factors including availability of assessment devices for evaluation, expectations of preparedness to teach these populations are consistent. Research low incidence LD’s through medical journals, education texts, and by attending professional development opportunities, as they are available to stay abreast of the latest and best practices in the classroom.