Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-ssw5r Total loading time: 0.67 Render date: 2022-08-16T23:36:59.113Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Book contents

6b - Learning disorders in adults

from Section II - Disorders

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 May 2010

Jacobus Donders
Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital
Scott J. Hunter
University of Chicago
Get access



Learning disorders (LD) are not limited to school-aged youth, and their impact extends beyond the academic realm. An LD is a life-long condition that affects individuals in the social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive domains. Many adults do not know why they have always struggled more than peers as LDs were not as widely recognized or diagnosed in the past. Given increased awareness of LDs in adults, neuropsychologists and other allied health professionals must be prepared to identify LDs and plan interventions to help the adults we see clinically.


Many terms are used to describe difficulties in learning, including “learning disorder” and “learning disability.” In US publications, these terms are used interchangeably other than when exact diagnostic terms are required. Note that the term “learning disability” has a broader application in the UK, where it includes all developmental disabilities such as mental retardation and autism; this is an important consideration when reviewing results of research conducted outside the USA. Differences in diagnostic terms and models determine the number of people classified as having LD, and thus impact access to services [1]. Decisions about selecting a diagnostic model have significant financial implications (e.g. funding services), emotional implications (e.g. families feeling their needs are being met), and legal implications (e.g. employee retention, support requirements). As a result, political agendas are often involved in selecting diagnostic models.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Hoy, C, Gregg, N, Wisenbaker, J, Bonham, SS, King, M, Moreland, C.Clinical model versus discrepancy model in determining eligibility for learning disabilities services at a rehabilitation setting. In Gregg, N, Hoy, C, Gay, AF, eds. Adults with Learning Disabilities: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives. New York: The Guilford Press; 1996: 55–67.Google Scholar
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004). Public Law 2004; 108–446.
Gregg, N, Coleman, C, Davis, M, Lindstrom, W, Hartwig, J. Critical issues for the diagnosis of learning disabilities in the adult population. Psychol Schools 2006;43(8): 889–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
,American Psychiatric Association (APA). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edn. text revision; DSM-IV-TR. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2000.Google Scholar
,World Health Organization. ICD-10: The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, vol. 1–3, 10th revision, 2nd edn. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2004.Google Scholar
,Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Public Law 1990; 101–336.
Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, Public Law 93–112.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. 794d), as amended by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, Public Law 105–220.
,The National Council on Disability (NCD, 2003). Rehabilitating Section 504. Accessed 22 Apr 2008 from
Schulte-Körne, G. Genetics of reading and spelling disorder. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 2001;42(8):985–97.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wadsworth, SJ, Olson, RK, Pennington, BF, DeFries, JC. Differential genetic etiology of RD as a function of IQ. J Learn Disabil 2000;33:192–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
DeFries, JC, Fulker, DW. Multiple regression analysis of twin data: Etiology of deviant scores versus individual differences. Acta Genet Med Gemollol 1988;37:205–16.Google ScholarPubMed
Grigorenko, EL, Wood, FB, Meyer, MS, Hart, , Speed, WC, Shuster, A, Pauls, DL. Susceptibility loci for distinct components of developmental dyslexia on chromosomes 6 and 15. Am J Hum Genet 1997;60:27–39.Google ScholarPubMed
Pulsifer, MB, Butz, AM, O'Reilly, FM, Belcher, HM. Prenatal drug exposure: effects on cognitive functioning at 5 years of age. Clin Pediatr (Phila) 2008;47(1):58–65.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Vorhees, CV. Developmental neurotoxicity induced by therapeutic and illicit drugs. Environ Health Perspect 1994;102(Suppl 2):145–53.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Howell, KK, Lynch, ME, Platzman, KA, Smith, GH, Coles, CD. Prenatal alcohol exposure and ability, academic achievement, and school functioning in adolescence: a longitudinal follow-up. J Pediatr Psychol 2006;31(1):116–26.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Reinisch, JM, Sanders, SA. Early barbiturate exposure: the brain, sexually dimorphic behavior and learning. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 1982;6(3):311–19.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Batstra, L, Hadders-Algra, M, Neeleman, J.Effect of antenatal exposure to maternal smoking on behavioural problems and academic achievement in childhood: prospective evidence from a Dutch birth cohort. Early Hum Dev 2003;75(1–2):21–33.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Morrow, CE, Culbertson, JL, Accornero, VH, Xue, L, Anthony, JC, Bandstra, ES. Learning disabilities and intellectual functioning in school-aged children with prenatal cocaine exposure. Dev Neuropsychol 2006;30(3):905–31.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fergusson, DM, Horwood, LJ, Lynskey, MT. Early dentine lead levels and educational outcomes at 18 years. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 1997;38(4):471–8.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Margai, F, Henry, N. A community-based assessment of learning disabilities using environmental and contextual risk factors. Soc Sci Med 2003;56(5):1073–85.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Allen, MC. Neurodevelopmental outcomes of preterm infants. Curr Opin Neurol 2008;21(2):123–8.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Stanton-Chapman, TL, Chapman, DA, Scott, KG. Identification of early risk factors for learning disabilities. J Early Intervent 2001;24(3):193–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ross, G, Sammaritano, L, Nass, R, Lockshin, M. Effects of mothers' autoimmune disease during pregnancy on learning disabilities and hand preference in their children. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2003;157:397–402.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Gerber, PJ, Ginsberg, R, Reiff, HB. Ientifying alterable patterns in employment success for highly successful adults with LD. J Learn Disabil 1992;25:475–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Feldman, E, Levin, BE, Lubs, H, Rabin, M, Lubs, ML, Jallad, B, Kusch, A. Adult familial dyslexia: A retrospective developmental and psychosocial profile. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci 1993;5:195–9.Google ScholarPubMed
Fourqurean, JM, Meisgeier, C, Swank, PR, Williams, RE. Correlates of postsecondary employment outcomes for young adults with LD. J Learn Disabil 1991;24:400–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Adelman, PB, Vogel, SA. Issues in the employment of adults with LD. Learn Disable Q 1993;16:219–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goldstein, S, Kennemer, K. Learning disabilities. In Goldstein, S, Reynolds, CR, eds. Handbook of Neurodevelopmental and Genetic Disorders in Adults. New York: The Guilford Press; 2005: 91–114.Google Scholar
Ward, MJ, Merves, ES. Full-time freshmen with disabilities enrolled in 4-year colleges: a statistical profile. Information from HEATH: a quarterly newsletter (Summer 2006). Accessed 10 Jul 2008 from
The National Institute for Literacy. Bridges to practice. Accessed 21 Apr 2008 from
,United States Department of Education (U.S. DOE), Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office of Special Education Programs. 27th Annual (2005) Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, vol. 1. Washington DC: 2007.Google Scholar
Shaywitz, SE, Shaywitz, BA. Dyslexia (specific reading disability). Pediatrics Rev 2003;24:147–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rutter, M, Caspi, A, Fergusson, D, Horwood, LJ, Goodman, R, Maughan, B, Moffitt, TE, Meltzer, H, Carroll, J.Sex differences in developmental reading disability: new findings from 4 epidemiological studies. JAMA 2004;291:2007–12.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Shaywitz, SE, Shaywitz, BA, Fletcher, JM, Escobar, MD. Prevalence of reading disability in boys and girls. Results of the Connecticut Longitudinal Study. JAMA 1990;264(8):998–1002.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Greiffenstein, MF, Baker, WJ. Neuropsychological and psychosocial correlation of adult arithmetic deficiency. Neuropsychology 2002;16(4):1332–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shafrir, U, Siegel, LS.Subtypes of learning disabilities in adolescents and adults. J Learn Disabil 1994;27:123–34.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Artiles, AJ, Aguirre-Munoz, Z, Abedi, J.Predicting placement in learning disabilities programs: do predictors vary by ethnic group? Except Child 1998;64(4):543–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Beaton, AA. The relation of planum temporale asymmetry and morphology of the corpus callosum to handedness, gender, and dyslexia: a review of the evidence. Brain Lang 1997;60:255–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bigler, ED. The neurobiology and neuropsychology of adult learning disorders. J Learn Disabil 1992;25:488–506.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Carroll, JM, Iles, JE. An assessment of anxiety levels in dyslexic students in higher education. Br J Educ Psychol 2006;76(Pt 3):651–62.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Huntington, DD, Bender, WN. Adolescents with learning disabilities at risk? Emotional well-being, depression, suicide. J Learn Disabil 1993;26(3):159–66.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
,The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (2000). Substance abuse and learning disabilities: peas in a pod or apples and oranges? Accessed 11 Jul 2008 from
McCue, M, Shelly, C, Goldstein, G, L, Katz-Garris. Neuropsychological aspects of LD in young adults. Clin Neuropsychol 1984;6:229–33.Google Scholar
Mapou, RL. Assessment of learning disabilties. In Ricker, JH, ed. Differential Diagnosis in Adult Neuropsychological Assessment. New York: Springer; 2004: 370–420.Google Scholar
Spreen, O, Strauss, E. A Compendium of Neuropsychological Tests: Administration, Norms, and Commentary, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1998.Google Scholar
Isaki, E, Plante, E. Short-term and working memory differences in language/LD and normal adults. J Commun Disord 1997;30:427–37.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bigler, ED, Lajiness-O-Neill, R, Howes, N. Technology in the assessment of learning disability. J Learn Disabil 1998;31:67–82.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hynd, GW, Semrud-Clikeman, M. Dyslexia and brain morphology. Psychol Bull 1989;106:447–82.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Morgan, AE, Hynd, GW. Dyslexia, neurolinguistic ability, and anatomical variation of the planum temporale. Neuropsychol Rev 1998;8:79–93.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Heimenz, JR, Hynd, GW. Sulcal/gyral pattern morphology of the perisylvian language region in developmental dyslexia. Brain Lang 2000;74:113–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shaywitz, SE, Shaywitz, BA, Pugh, KR, Fulbright, RK, Constable, RT, Mencl, WE, Shankweiler, DP, Liberman, AM, Skudlarski, P, Fletcher, JM, Katz, L, Marchione, KE, Lacadie, C, Gatenby, C, Gore, JC. Functional disruption in the organization of the brain for reading in dyslexia. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 1998;95:2636–41.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wagner, M, Newman, L, Cameto, R, Levine, P.Changes over time in the early postschool outcomes of youth with disabilities: a report of findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) and the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International; 2005.Google Scholar
The National Institute for Literacy. Workforce education. Accessed 21 Apr 2008 from
Maruschak, LM, Beck, AJ. Medical problems of inmates, 1997. Bureau of Justice Statistics: Special Report, NCJ 181644, 2001. Accessed 21 Apr 2008 from
Wagner, M, Newman, L, Cameto, R, Levine, P, Garza, N.An Overview of Findings from Wave 2 of the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International; 2006.Google Scholar
Harlow, CW. Education and correctional populations. Bureau of Justice Statistics: Special Report, NCJ 195670, 2003. Accessed 21 Apr 2008 from
The National Institute for Literacy. Correctional education facts. Accessed 21 Apr 2008 from
Yu, JW, Buka, SL, Fitzmaurice, GM, McCormick, MC. Treatment outcomes for substance abuse among adolescents with learning disorders. J Behav Health Serv Res 2006;33(3):275–86.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hawks, R. Assessing adults with learning disabilities. In Gregg, N, Hoy, C, Gay, AF, eds. Adults with Learning Disabilities: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives. New York: The Guilford Press; 1996: 144–61.Google Scholar
,United States Department of Education (U.S. DOE), Institute of Education Sciences (undated). What works clearinghouse. Accessed 11 Jul 2008 from
Fantine, JA (undated). ProLiteracy America: learning disabilities trainer's guide (based on Bridges to practice: a research-based guide for literacy practitioners serving adults with learning disabilities). Accessed 21 Apr 2008 from
Lindstrom, JH. Determining appropriate accommodations for postsecondary students with reading and written expression disorders. Learn Disabil Res Pract 2007;22(4):229–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ofiesh, NS. Math, science, and foreign language: evidence-based accommodation decision making at the postsecondary level. Learn Disabil Res Pract 2007;22(4):237–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Runyan, MK. The effect of extra time on reading comprehension scores for university students with and without learning disabilities. J Learn Disabil 1991;24:104–8.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Alster, EH. The effects of extended time on algebra test scores for college students with and without learning difficulties. J Learn Disabil 1997;30:222–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lindstrom, JH, Gregg, N. The role of extended time on the SAT® for students with learning disabilities and/or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Learn Disabil Res Pract 2007;22(2):85–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gajar, A. Adults with learning difficulties: current and future research priorities. J Learn Disabil 1992;25:507–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
,Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 9th revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) 2007. Accessed 22 Jan 2008 from
,Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title III Technical Assistance Manual: Covering Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities (undated). Accessed 22 Apr 2008 from
Bruck, M. Word recognition skills of adults with childhood diagnoses of dyslexia. Dev Psychol 1990;26:439–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bruck, M. Persistence of dyslexics' phonological awareness deficits. Dev Psychol 1992;28:874–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bruck, M. Component spelling skills of college students with childhood diagnoses of dyslexia. Learn Disabil Q 1993;16:171–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
,United States Department of Education (U.S. DOE), Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office of Special Education Programs (2000). 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey. Washington DC.
,Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD, undated). AHEAD Best Practices Disability Documentation in Higher Education. Accessed 10 Jul 2008 from
,Educational Testing Service (ETS), Office of Disability Policy. ETS Revised Policy Statement for Documentation of a Learning Disability in Adolescents and Adults (Documenting Learning Disabilities, 2nd edn). Princeton, NJ: 2007. Accessed 10 Jul 2008 from
Madaus, JW. Employment self-disclosure rates and rationales of university graduates with learning disabilities. J Learn Disabil 2008;41(4):291–9.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats