Learning Disability

  1. Definition

    A general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual, presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction, and may occur across the life span. Problems in self-regulatory behaviors, social perception, and social interaction may exist with learning disabilities, but do not by themselves constitute a learning disability. Although learning disabilities may occur concomitantly with other disabling conditions, for example, sensory impairment, mental retardation, or serious emotional disturbance, or with extrinsic influences, such as cultural differences or insufficient or inappropriate instruction, they are not the result of those condition or influences (from the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities).

    Students with learning disabilities usually have average or above-average intelligence. Learning disabilities are not the same as mental retardation or emotional disorders.

    Learning disabilities must be documented through a series of intellectual, cognitive, and achievement skills testing. The testing indicates that there is a learning disability when there is a discrepancy between the student’s achievement skills and intellectual capacity.

  2. Common LD problems/deficits exhibited

    Auditory processing
    Difficulty perceiving or processing auditory material, i.e. differentiating between similar sounds, hearing sounds out of sequence, difficulty in “tuning out” background noises.

    Visual processing
    Difficulty perceiving or processing visual materiel, i.e. seeing an image in a competing background, seeing things in correct sequence, differentiating between similar objects, perceiving depth or distance.

    Information processing speed
    How quickly one receives information, processes the information, and reacts to it.

    Abstract and general reasoning
    Difficulty thinking in an orderly, logical way, difficulty applying a learned skill to a new task.

    Long and short term, visual or auditory memory
    Difficulty processing information to transfer into long-term memory, difficulty remembering rote facts, difficulty recalling information from memory in test situations.

    Spoken and written language skills
    Difficulty in expressing one’s self coherently, difficulty with the physical act of writing, i.e. dysgraphia.

    Reading skills
    Difficulty with any task in which reading is an essential component, i.e. dyslexia.

    Mathematical skills Difficulty with calculations, rapid processing of math facts, reversal of numbers, i.e. dyscalculia.

    Visual spatial skills
    Difficulty perceiving dimensions of space, trouble distinguishing left from right, north from south, up from down, ahead from behind.

    Motor skills
    Difficulty with physical coordination, seeing, then doing or hearing, then doing the problems.

    Planning (executive) functioning
    Difficulty managing or prioritizing time and tasks.

  3. Possible Accommodations


    • Allow use of voice recorders and/or laptop computers in class.
    • Notetakers or copies of instructor and/or classmate’s notes, overheads, and/or PowerPoint presentations.
    • Give an outline of the lecture before class.
    • Use multiple teaching modalities, i.e. use of concrete examples, personal experiences, hands-on models, and visual aids, such as charts and graphs.
    • Write new terms and key points on the blackboard.
    • Step-by-Step explanations.
    • Periodical breaks in lecture.
    • Read aloud material that is written on the blackboard or given in handouts or transparencies or provide copies.
    • Review previous material, provide an outline of current material, and give a summary of important points at the end of class.
    • Provide an advanced syllabus prior to the start of the class with clear and detailed expectations, topics, and procedures.


    • Texts in alternate formats (CD, electronic).

    In class work / homework

    • Extended time to complete assignments in courses with significant demand on reading and writing skills.
    • Break up long assignments into segments.


    • Provide study guides or review sheets for exams.
    • Alternative forms of exams, such as oral tests or essay instead of multiple-choice format, alternatives to computer-grid-scored sheets.
    • Extended time for exams.
    • Exams in a quiet, distraction-free environment.
    • Allow use of calculator, spell checker, thesaurus, reader, and/or scribe during exams.

    Equipment available at Raynor Library to assist learning disabled students at Marquette:

    Kurzweil 3000 software system
    Reading Edge
    Cassette recorders, CD players

*For more information please visit our Assistive Technology page.

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact the Office of Disability Services


Our Mission

Marquette University's Office of Disability Services is dedicated to providing equal access within the classroom setting, through the determination of appropriate accommodations, for students with documented disabilities. ODS promotes accessibility awareness through collaboration with campus partners, the development of student self-advocacy, and through consultation with the broader community. Guided by the university's mission, we strive to support the Marquette community in their efforts to educate all students on campus.