College students with learning disabilities are intelligent, talented, and capable. Typically they have developed a variety of strategies for compensating for their learning disabilities. The degree of severity of the disability varies from individual to individual.  Individuals who come from divergent cultural and language backgrounds may exhibit many of the oral and written language behaviors mentioned below, but this does not necessarily mean they have a learning disability.

* Adapted from College Students with Learning Disabilities brochure. (1983). L.C. Brinckerhoff, Ph.D. (Ed.). Columbus, OH: Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD).


The following list of characteristics of students with learning disabilities is merely an introduction and is not comprehensive.

Reading Skills

Slow reading rate and/or difficulty in modifying reading rate in accordance with material difficulty.

Poor comprehension and retention.

Difficulty identifying important points and themes.

Poor mastery of phonics, confusion of similar words, and difficulty integrating new vocabulary.

Skipping words or lines of printed material.

Written language skills

Difficulty with sentence structure.

Frequent spelling errors especially in specialized and foreign vocabulary.

Inability to copy correctly from a book or the blackboard.

Slow writer.

Poor penmanship (e.g. poorly formed letters, trouble with spacing, overly large hand writing.)

Oral language skills

Inability to concentrate on and comprehend oral language.

Difficulty in oral expression of ideas which he/she seems to understand.

Written expression is better than oral expression.

Difficulty speaking grammatically correct English.

Cannot tell a story in proper sequences.

Mathematical skills

Incomplete mastery of basic facts.

Reverses numbers.

Confuses operational symbols, especially + and x.

Copies problems incorrectly from one line to another.

Difficulty recalling the sequence of operational processes.

Inability to understand and retain abstract concepts.

Difficulty comprehending word problems.

Reasoning deficits.

Organizational and study skills

Difficulties with time management.

Slow to start and complete tasks.

Repeated inability, on a day to day basis, to recall what has been taught.

Difficulty following oral and written directions.

Difficulty preparing for and taking tests.

Lack of overall organization in written notes and compositions.

Demonstrates short attention span during lectures.

Inefficient use of library reference materials.

Attention and concentration

Trouble focusing and sustaining attention on academic tasks.

Fluctuating attention span during lectures, as well as easily distracted by outside stimuli.

Difficulty juggling numerous tasks at the same time and goes in "overload" quickly.

Hyperactivity and excessive movements may accompany the inability to focus attention.

Social skills

Problems detecting the difference between sincere and sarcastic comments.

Inability to recognize other subtle changes in vocal tone.

Difficulty interpreting nonverbal messages.

Lowered self-esteem due to disability, causing difficulties when meeting new people or working cooperatively with others.