My Child Has What? Understanding Your Child's Diagnosis

Understanding your child's learning disorder diagnosis

With school back in session, many educators are identifying kids who are struggling or need extra help to be successful in the classroom. 

How do you determine if a child has a learning disability?

When early intervention or common classroom interventions fail and a child is still struggling, the school or parents will request an evaluation to determine if the child needs accommodations (which will be detailed in a 504 plan) or more intensive special education (specific interventions will be detailed in an IEP).

What are some common learning disorders diagnosed in children?

Here are a few more common learning disorders or diagnoses that can come from an evaluation:

Diagnosis or Learning DisorderWhat it means?


Aphasia is a disorder related to full or partial loss of language caused by damage to the brain areas responsible for language. A child with aphasia might have trouble expressing and understanding language, and also reading and writing.

Apraxia of speech (AOS)

AOS is a neurological disorder that impacts how the brain processes the movements required to speak. A child with AOS might have trouble saying what they want correctly or distort sounds, which can impact their ability to communicate effectively.

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

APD impacts the way a child's brain understands and interprets sounds, including speech. A child with APD may have trouble speaking, reading, writing or spelling, mixing up similar sounds or not hearing small sound differences in words.


Dyslexia is a learning disorder that occurs from differences in the areas of the brain that process language. A child with dyslexia will have problems identifying speech sounds and understanding how sounds relate to letters and words (“decoding”). Dyslexia can impact how a child reads, writes, speaks and or spells.


Dyscalculia is a learning disorder associated with challenges in understanding numbers and applying mathematical principles to solve problems. A child with dyscalculia might not recognize numbers, see basic patterns, or have trouble learning to count.


Dysgraphia is an impairment related to a child's writing abilities, and can affect a child's handwriting or how a child writes or translates thoughts to paper. A child with dysgraphia might have poor or illegible handwriting, be challenged by syntax structure and grammar, or might avoid writing.


Giftedness refers to children who perform and learn at much higher levels than their peers (in the top 10% or higher) in one or more of the following areas: intellectual, academic, creative, artistic and leadership. A gifted child requires modifications to learn and realize their full potential, and may sometimes have a co-occurring disability or mental health diagnosis, including social-emotional challenges, ADHD or autism spectrum disorder.

Oral and written language learning disability (OWL, LD)

OWL LD, or selective language impairment (SLI),  covers language impairment affecting both spoken and written language.

Visual processing disorder (VPD)

VPD is a physical impairment that impacts how the brain processes visual information; it is not a vision disorder. A child with VPD might have trouble learning, completing everyday tasks or physical activities.

What happens if my child is diagnosed with a learning disability?

These evaluations often assign a child with a learning disability diagnosis – many of which sound scary and  generally aren't fully understood by parents. 

  • “Remember, having your child assigned a learning disorder or other diagnosis does not change who your child is,” says Julie D'Orsi, HYM Lead Psychometrist.

    “Evaluations are essential to ensure that your child receives the right supports and accommodations to enable them to succeed in and out of school.”

But, you want to make sure any evaluation is accurate. For example, a child might be diagnosed with auditory processing disorder, but it turns out it's symptomatic of a more involved disorder like autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Can a child be wrongly diagnosed?

If you have concerns about a diagnosis or learning disability assigned to your child – either because you think it's wrong or that your child has more profound challenges than those associated with a learning disorder – you have the legal right to request a separate evaluation, independent from your school district.

Learn more about your rights to an independent educational evaluation, here.

Written by Dr. Cari Whitlock

Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Neuropsychologist at Healthy Young Minds

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