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What is a learning difference?

At The Summit School, we view learning disabilities as learning differences. Children who have learning differences might be diagnosed with dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, written language disorder, or executive function disorder.

We believe that children who struggle in school have many abilities that are challenging to demonstrate because of their processing difficulties. For example, they may struggle with working memory and have difficulty remembering facts or procedures. They may work more slowly than their peers. They may know a lot of information but have difficulty retrieving and expressing their knowledge clearly and succinctly. They may struggle with reading decoding and spelling because their brain does not process the sounds of the language easily.

However, students with learning differences are bright – they are problem solvers, creative, intuitive, and can succeed given a rigorous, multi-sensory learning environment that is tailored to their individualized needs.

Definition of Dyslexia

Dyslexia is NOT reading words backwards or writing letters backwards. That is a common misconception.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) defines dyslexia as a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person’s ability to read. Individuals with dyslexia typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence. Although the disorder varies from person to person, common characteristics among people with dyslexia are difficulty with phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds), spelling, and/or rapid visual-verbal responding. Dyslexia can be inherited in some families, and recent studies have identified a number of genes that may predispose an individual to developing dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a word level reading disorder resulting in difficulty decoding or sounding out words, recognizing words automatically, and spelling. Additionally, individuals who have dyslexia demonstrate oral language difficulties that are prerequisites for reading. These difficulties are word retrieval, for either accuracy and automaticity (i.e., rapid naming) or both, and for phonemic processing which affects the ability to discern, discriminate, and sequence sounds in words before the notion of letter/sound associations are introduced.

What is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia, a specific learning disability, impairs legible and automatic letter production by hand, which can interfere with written composing. It affects how easily children acquire written language and how well they use written language to express their thoughts. Dysgraphia can be a motor skill deficit, cognitive-linguistic disability, or a combination of both.

Dysgraphia manifests itself in poor writing performance and often slow written work production. Impaired handwriting can interfere with learning to spell words in writing. Occasionally, but not very often, children have just spelling problems and not handwriting or reading problems.

Dysgraphia can occur alone, or in children who also have dyslexia, other language disorders, or ADHD. It can contribute to emotional stress or anxiety. Although early intervention is desirable, it is never too late to intervene to improve a student’s deficient skills and provide appropriate accommodations.

For more information about diagnosis and treatment, click here.

What is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Students with dyscalculia may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack number sense as it relates to quantity, have problems learning number facts and procedures and have less automatic processing of written numbers- linking written or spoken numbers to the concept of quantity.

Dyscalculia can exhibit as

  • delay in counting as compared to peers at age 5-7

  • delay in using efficient counting strategies for addition as compared to same aged peers

  • difficulties in memorizing basic math facts persisting up to at least age 13

Online Resources


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities.

Free Appropriate Public Education for Students With Disabilities: Requirements Under Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) enforces Section 504 in programs and activities that receive funds from ED. Recipients of these funds include public school districts, institutions of higher education, and other state and local education agencies.

The Sydney Crawford Resolution, House Simple Resolution 623, to increase awareness and to support further research and treatment of dyslexia and related learning disabilities.

Contact your Senator(s) and your House Representative so that you may contact them in support of legislation and resolutions.