5 Types of Learning Disabilities You Probably Didn’t Know Existed!

One of the most common questions I get asked about an evaluation is, “can you evaluate for just (fill in the blank).” On occasion, I’ll happily reduce the evaluation time and just assess for the specific disorder that was requested. However, there are so many diagnoses that can impact emotional, behavioral, social, and academic functioning that many people have never heard of. This is why a comprehensive evaluation that assesses for cognitive, processing, attention, emotional functioning, language ability, academic skills, executive functioning, motor coordination, and emotional functioning is needed! Read below to find out about some of the less common diagnoses.

1.     Nonverbal Learning Disability - Nonverbal learning disability (NVLD) is somewhat controversial, as it is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-5. However, many experts agree that NVLD is a diagnosis that is characterized by a deficit in visual spatial ability with at times, above average verbal aptitude. Some of the impacts include poor social skills, anxiety, motor skills deficits, math difficulties, difficulty with attention, problems with organization, and problems with written expression. NVLD is often misdiagnosed as AD/HD, autism spectrum disorders, anxiety disorders, and math disorders.

2.     Social Communication Disorder - Social Communication Disorder was added the DSM-5 when Asperger’s Syndrome was removed. It is not intended to replace Asperger’s Syndrome, as it does not include repetitive behaviors, restrictive interests, sensory sensitivities, etc. However, social communication disorder is often diagnosed when an individual’s social language ability is significantly lower than their verbal and/or general cognitive skills. Social communication disorder can impact verbal and nonverbal communication, social skills, and inferencing. It is often misdiagnosed as an autism spectrum disorder, language disorder, and/or social anxiety disorder. Only a comprehensive diagnosis can correctly diagnose this disorder.

3.     Dyscalculia- Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability that primarily impacts a person’s math ability. Often times a person’s nonverbal cognitive skills are weaker than their language. Areas impacted can include math calculations, math problem solving skills, math facts, handling money, and understanding graphs.

4.     Auditory Processing Disorder- Auditory Processing Disorder is not included in the DSM-5, but many speech language pathologists and clinicians with expertise in evaluations understand the impact of having weaker auditory processing on learning. Auditory processing disorder occurs when an individual has average hearing, but problems processing what they hear, especially when background noises are present. Research shows that it occurs in 2-7 % of the population. Individuals with auditory processing disorder often ask for information to be repeated, appear distracted, can struggle with reading, and have problems with auditory working memory. It is often misdiagnosed as AD/HD or general Language Problems.

5.     Language Disorder- Language Disorder was previously diagnosed as Mixed Receptive and Expressive Language Disorder. Individuals with Language Disorders often have difficulty understanding and/or processing what is said to them and/or have difficulty adequately expressing their thoughts. It can impact all academic areas, because all academic learning is verbally mediated. In particular, reading comprehension, math word problems, and written expression becomes especially problematic for someone with a language disorder. A full comprehensive evaluation is needed to determine how the language disorder is impacting academic achievement. Some common misdiagnoses include AD/HD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, autism spectrum disorders, and/or intellectual disability.

When trying to understand your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses, and determine if there are any learning challenges that are interfering with your child’s academic success, keep in mind a comprehensive evaluation by a clinician with expertise in all potential diagnoses is warranted.

Contact Heights Family Counseling, 713.380.1151 and/or www.heightsfamilycounseling.com to see if our evaluation services would be a good fit for you and/or your child.

Written by Amy Rollo, M.A., LPA, LSSP, LPC-S

Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and owner of Heights Family Counseling. Amy has been practicing counseling and diagnostic evaluations for fifteen years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, evaluations, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Houston Heights and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Read more about Amy's counseling style by visiting www.heightsfamilycounseling.com and read more about her services http://heightsfamilycounseling.com/services-1/