Knowing the difference between learning disability and learning difference in neurodiversity discourse is crucial as one implies a deficit while the other implies diversity.
It has been conclusively established that every individual is unique even from birth. That uniqueness follows them through their lives and encompasses many facets that in one form or another contribute to making each of them who they are.
Relating this to the terms learning disability and learning difference, these two words may appear to be interchangeable. However, there is a distinction between the two terms. Specifically, the term learning disability implies a deficit, while the term learning difference implies dimensionality. I personally prefer to use the term "learning differences" or "learning challenges" instead of "learning disabilities". Why? According to the Learning Disabilities Association of New York, the term "learning disability" focuses on an individual's cognitive weaknesses and isolates them from other learners while the term "learning difference" highlights the fact that they simply learn differently than others do.
In the simplest terms, learning disabilities are disorders that make it difficult for individuals to select and use normal strategies to process incoming information when they learn, retain new information, and perform daily tasks. In contrast, learning differences are just differences — they are differences in the way people think and process information which may impact their ability to learn. Learning differences may vary but students who struggle with this usually feel lost and confused when they are asked to study and perform in the same learning method as their classmates. What the school doesn’t understand is that these students’ brains just work differently.
Learning Disability is the term often used by schools and the public, however, I am on a mission to rebrand people like me who have one of the 3Ds (Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia) as having a Learning Difference. I personally believe that it is not a disability if only we are taught in a way we understand. We learn differently; if we were living in the time of Edison, Einstein or Da Vinci (where most people learn by doing), our differences would have been seen as strengths, not a disadvantage.
Ultimately, it's important to remember that the only way to ensure the best possible learning experience for a student is through personalized instruction and methods. Different brains require different teaching styles; and if educators can take that insight into account, it can better help learners succeed in their studies and beyond.
I’d like to emphasize that those who struggle with reading because of Dyslexia, for instance, do not necessarily have a learning disability and I’m hoping that more people, especially in academia, will be more careful to distinguish a learning difference from a disability.
All children will have challenges in life, and it is important to give them the tools that they need to succeed. For parents of kids with any of the 3Ds, it is vital to know what works and what doesn't for your learner. At first, it may seem like the tasks are too difficult or seemingly impossible, but if you provide a little extra time to determine the best solution to overcome your learner’s struggles, chances are they will succeed at any task just as well as any other child who learns traditionally.
To determine if we are the right solution for your child with learning differences, schedule a FREE consultation with us at 3DLearningExperts.com/consult or visit our website www.3DLearningExperts.com to learn more about what we do.
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LEXIA LEARNERS LOUNGE
Jess Arce is a homeschool mom of four, a tutor for children & adults who struggle with Dyslexia & Dysgraphia and an all around entrepreneur. She is passionate about helping others understand dyslexia.