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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2010

6b - Learning disorders in adults

from Section II - Disorders



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.

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