Learning disabilities can occur in four areas:
  • Input - process of recording information in the brain
  • Integration - organizing and understanding information
  • Memory - storage and retrieval of information
  • Output - communication of information from the brain to other people or translation of the information into action

Input disabilities involve problems with either visual or auditory perception. For example, a person with a visual perception disability may reverse letters or words, confuse directions left and right, or have a problem focusing on a specific term rather than on the background. Individuals with auditory perception disabilities may find it difficult to distinguish subtle differences in sounds and may confuse similar sounding words, be able to distinguish a voice apart from other background sounds, or process sounds at a slower-than-normal rate.

Integration disabilities include problems with the correct ordering or sequencing of information, understanding words or phrases based on their use in context (abstraction), and organizing information.

Memory disabilities often involve one's short-term memory, such as the ability to retain a telephone number from the operator long enough to dial it on the telephone. A greater amount of repetition may be required to learn something by a person with a short-term memory disability versus someone without this type of disability.

Output disabilities include both language and motor disabilities.

  • Language disabilities may be of the spontaneous type (when the person initiates a conversation) or the demand type (when someone else asks the person a question).

  • Motor disabilities involve problems with using large muscle (gross motor disabilities) or small muscles (fine motor disabilities). Persons with gross motor disabilities may be clumsy or stumble, for example, while those with fine motor disabilities may find it difficult to coordinate a team of small muscles such as those required for handwriting.

This information is provided by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.