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Specific Learning Disability
What is a learning disability?
A learning disability is a disorder that impedes the understanding or use of language, either spoken or written. A learning disability may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations.

Learning disabilities are the most common type of disability among students receiving special education services in the United States.

[+] Read about the specific criteria used to determine eligibility in the educational category of learning disabilities.

Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education – Criteria for Eligibility in the Educational Category of “Learning Disabled”

A child is determined to have a specific learning disability when:
  1. The child does not achieve commensurate with his or her age and ability levels in one or more areas listed in B below if provided with learning experiences
appropriate for the child’s age and ability level;
  2. The child displays observable characteristics that indicate deficits in basic psychological processing in one or more of the following academic areas:
    • Basic reading skill
    • Mathematics reasoning
    • Reading comprehension
    • Written expression
    • Oral expression
    • Mathematics calculation
    • Listening comprehension
    In determining whether a child has a specific learning disability, a responsible public agency may use a process that determines if the child responds to scientific, research-based intervention as a part of the evaluation procedures or may require a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability (of 1.5 standard deviation).

  3. The child’s learning disability is not primarily the result of:
    • A visual, hearing, or motor disability
    • Mental retardation
    • Emotional disturbance
    • Environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage
NOTE ON PROFESSIONAL JUDGMENT: If a responsible public agency uses a severe discrepancy method: A child who does not display a discrepancy of at least 1.5 standard deviations as defined in B above, may nonetheless be deemed to have a specific learning disability if 1) the child meets the other criteria of this rule; and 2) based upon professional judgment and review of formal and informal assessments, the evaluation team concludes that a severe discrepancy exists. In such cases, sufficient data must be presented in the evaluation report to document the existence of a specific learning disability.

If the agency does not use a severe discrepancy method, professional judgment can only be used if the child does not respond to scientific, research-based intervention.
[+] Books, journals and other publications on learning disabilities

The SSD Family & Community Resource Center (FCRC) offers books, videos and other resources on learning disabilities (PDF). Materials may be sent home through school mail to families whose children receive SSD services. Others may come into the FCRC to check out materials.
[+] Other local, state and national resources related to learning disabilities

Local Resources
Churchill Center & School

Miriam School/Learning Center

St. Louis Learning Disabilities Association (LDA)

State Resources
Learning Disabilities Association of Missouri

Decoding Dyslexia Missouri

National Resources
International Dyslexia Association

Learning Disabilities Association of America

LD Online

National Center for Learning Disabilities


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12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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