Understanding essential learning disability terminology
The field of learning disability and attention issues is full of acronyms and specialized words. Understanding essential learning disability terminology can sometimes be confusing and overwhelming for parents and educators who are new to this field. In his section we has tried to provide several terms frequently used across the website and while working with children with learning disabilities. This glossary will help parents and educators understand the meanings of such terms.
Essential learning disability terminology
Access means being able to make use of or make meaning of the learning material. Making learning material accessible would mean that all learners can use, understand and engage with the material. Access may look different for different learners as per their abilities. Some may need additional supports or varied formats of the same material to access it. For instance, a student who struggles with reading may not be able to fluently read text from their grade level book, which makes it inaccessible for them. However, providing the written text with an audio version may make it more accessible.
A change in classroom techniques, materials or environment made for an affected student. Accommodations help students work around their challenges. This is generally contrasted with modifications.
Speaking or acting on behalf of a person or group in order to promote their rights or need.
A test designed to assess a person’s level of competency to perform a specific type of task.
Is the collection and analysis of information and data to determine what is causing a
child’s issues. It may involve tests, interviews, and observations conducted by doctors,
specialists, and educators.
Any item, piece of equipment or software that enhances the ability of students and
employees to be more efficient and successful.
Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a neurodevelopmental
disorder that can cause attention issues, impulsivity, distractibility, and hyperactivity. A child can be either predominantly be inattentive or predominantly hyperactive-impulsive or a combination of these two.
Health care professionals who identify, assess and manage disorders of hearing, balance and other neural systems.
The process of remembering what is heard.
The way one understands the information they hear. Learning disabilities affecting this process can affect the accuracy of what is heard, the memory of what is heard, organisation of what is heard, or figure-ground discrimination of sounds.
Behavioural modification is the process of changing patterns of human behaviour over the long term using various motivational techniques. The ultimate goal is to swap objectionable, problematic, or disagreeable behaviours with more positive, desirable behaviours.
Children with Disabilities
Children who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others (based on Article 1 of UNCRPD)
A person’s ability to think and reason fluidly.
When a child does not reach a developmental milestone by the age expected, it is called a developmental delay. The milestones can be language, thinking and social skills milestones.
The ability to translate a word from print to speech, usually by employing knowledge of sound-symbol correspondences. It is also the act of deciphering a new word by sounding it out.
A severe language disorder presumed to be due to brain injury rather than a developmental delay in the normal acquisition of language.
Disability is an evolving concept and … [it] results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others (based on the UNCRPD preamble)
A learning disability involving maths. People have severe difficulty understanding and using arithmetic symbols or functions, including recognising numbers and symbols, memorising basic number facts, aligning numbers, and understanding abstract concepts like time, place value, and fractions.
A learning disability that affects writing abilities, vocabulary, grammar, hand movement, and memory. Dysgraphia may result from problems in either of these areas, and it can manifest itself as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper.
A language-based disability that affects both oral and written language. It is commonly misunderstood to be a condition that causes letters to appear backwards or upside down, but it is much more complicated in reality. The bottom line of dyslexia is now thought to be a problem with the sounds in words (phonological awareness).
A severe difficulty in performing drawing, writing, buttoning, and other tasks requiring fine motor skill, or in sequencing the necessary movements.
The ability to translate ideas into words or symbols.
The ability to organise cognitive processes. These include skills that are needed to plan ahead, manage, organise, prioritise, stop and start activities, shift from one activity to another in everyday life as well as school and work.
Fine motor skills refer to the ability to use small muscles to do small things – threading a needle, holding a pen etc.
The process of assessing a condition by providing standardised tests or instruments in conjunction with specific administration and interpretation procedures
Text, diagram or other pictorial devices that summarises and illustrates interrelationships among concepts in a text. Graphic organisers are often known as maps, webs, graphs, charts, frames, or clusters.
Gross Motor Skills
Gross-motor skills refer to the ability to use large muscle for activities like dancing or jumping.
Impulsivity is the tendency to act without thinking or considering the consequences of the performed actions.
A fundamental human right, a principle that values the well-being of all students, respects their inherent dignity and autonomy and acknowledges individuals’ requirements and their ability to effectively be included in and contribute to society. It is also a means of realising other human rights and a result of a process of continuing and proactive commitment to eliminating barriers impeding the right to education (based on General Comment 4 on Article 24: Right to inclusive education, by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2016).
Individualised Education Program (IEP)
A blueprint or plan outlining a student’s special education needs and related services. It is specifically designed to meet the unique educational needs of a student with a disability.
Intelligence Quotient (IQ)
A measure of someone’s intelligence as indicated by an intelligence test, where an average score is 100. An IQ score is the ratio of a person’s mental age to his chronological age multiplied by 100.
Learning Disability (LD)
It is a neurological disorder that affects how the brain works with information. It can impact the ability to receive, process, store, respond and communicate and manifests itself in the inability to learn at the same pace as peers. It affects people’s ability to interpret what they see and hear. It is sometimes referred to as a learning disorder or a learning difference.
Mainstream, in the learning disability context, is the classroom that follows the general education system.
The practice of placing students with special education services in a general education classroom during
Memory that stores information for later use. For example, the phone number of your best friend or a family member that you have memorised is stored in your long-term memory.
Memory that holds information briefly while you use it. For example, when you read a phone number and then dial it, the number is held in your short-term memory.
Memory that holds an idea while you are using it – for example, your working memory holds a formula when you are working on a math problem.
Are changes made in what or how much a student is taught. While accommodations are for the same grade-level content, modifications may include making changes in the content in terms of complexity, amount, and pace, e.g. shorter assignments, less complex assignments etc.
The ability to remember and perform certain steps to complete an action. For e.g. knowing what actions to take and in what order to complete a particular task.
Teaching that uses more than one sense (visual/auditory, kinesthetic-tactile) and pathways in the brain simultaneously in order to enhance memory and learning.
Nonverbal Learning Disability
A neurological disorder that affects all learning not related to language, causing problems with visual-spatial, intuitive, organisational, evaluative, and holistic processing functions like social skills and physical coordination. Also called NLDs or NVLDs.
Occupational Therapy (OT)
A rehabilitative service that helps improve the skills needed for everyday tasks like writing, gripping etc. These include exercises for improving hand-eye coordination, strength, and fine motor skills like pencil grip.
Organisational problems can include problems with managing time, organising tasks, and organising space.
A multisensory approach, created by Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham, to remediate dyslexia.
Person with disability
Any person with long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment that hinders their full and effective participation in society equally with others.
A person with a benchmark disability
A person with not less than forty per cent of a specified disability as certified by the certifying authority.
A person with a disability having high support needs
A person with benchmark disability who needs high support.
The smallest unit of speech that serves to distinguish one utterance from another in a language.
Phonemic Awareness/ Phonological Awareness
The ability to recognise the distinct sounds in words, which is required for further language and reading development.
Phonics is a method for teaching the relationships between the letters of a written language and the sounds of the spoken language and shows how this information can be used to read or decode words.
Physical Therapy (PT)
A form of instructional support and treatment that helps improve the gross motor skills needed for walking, reaching, and standing. It also helps with balance and muscle control.
Processing speed refers to how quickly or slowly a person is able to use, take in, or bring out information. It is not related to cognitive ability – just to speed and fluency.
A medical practitioner specialising in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.
Remedial programs are the various programs that try to help kids catch up in reading, writing, math and other subjects.
The Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI)
RCI is a statutory body established by the government of India to regulate and monitor services given to persons with disabilities, standardise syllabi, and maintain a Central Rehabilitation Register of all qualified professionals and personnel working in the field of rehabilitation and special education. The Act also prescribes punitive action against unqualified persons delivering services to persons with disabilities.
Right to Information (RTI)
The term derives from the Right to Information Act, passed by Parliament, and means that citizens can request information from state or central government departments and offices. Such requests are processed and responded to in a timely way as mandated by the RTI Act.
Right to Education (RTE)
The term derives from the Right to Education Act which describes the modalities of the right to free and compulsory education for children between the age of six to 14 years in India.
RPWD Act, 2016
The RPWD Act is a social welfare legislation passed by the Indian Parliament to fulfil its obligation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which India ratified in 2007.
Speech Therapy (ST)
A form of treatment that helps improve speech and language issues.
A preliminary way to identify whether a child needs an in-depth evaluation or the child’s needs can be fulfilled by providing additional learning aids.
A method of teaching in which the teacher breaks up the learning into chunks while providing a tool, or structure, with each chunk to support learning. Tools come in many forms like modelling, prompting, direct explanations or targeted questions.
The ability to develop specific skills and understandings to communicate one’s specific needs and disabilities to others. Self-advocacy gives a person the confidence to cope positively with the attitudes of others like peers, parents, teachers, and employers.
Special Education (SPED)
Special education refers to a range of educational and social services provided to children with disabilities.
Specific Learning Disability (SLD)
A specific learning disability refers to difficulty in specific areas of learning, like the ability to listen, think, speak, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations rather than in all areas of learning.
Social perception refers to the ability to identify and interpret various social situations like the tone of voice, body language, ‘reading’ facial expressions etc. Individuals who suffer from difficulties with social skills have trouble using social perceptions to guide their behaviour.
The skills we use on a daily basis to communicate and interact with others to get along socially. Individuals with learning disabilities generally have difficulties in learning social skills, which may cause social struggles like loneliness, conflict, awkwardness, etc.
Universal Design For Learning (UDL)
UDL is an approach to teaching and learning that provides a framework for creating flexible goals, methods, materials, and assessments to accommodate learners with differences.
The ability to use sensory feedback to guide physical movements – what is loosely referred to as “coordination”. A deficit in this area can make it difficult to coordinate large or small movements – catching a ball while running, waving goodbye, to more complex tasks like brushing teeth or copying seatwork from the blackboard. Also known as dyspraxia.
The brain’s ability to use and interpret visual information. Individuals with visual processing disorders have an effect on the accuracy of what they see, the memory of what is seen, and have difficulty in understanding what is seen.
The way we follow a line of text on a page.
The limited amount of brain’s ability to store and manage information in one’s mind for a short period of time. The average adult can hold up to seven numbers in their working memory. Working memory is sometimes called short-term memory.