Utah’s Special Education Rules define specific learning disabilities as “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia, that affects a student’s educational performance.

Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; of intellectual disability; of emotional disturbance; or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.”

For information about how eligibility is determined for special education services for students in Utah with specific learning disabilities, refer to Utah’s Special Education Rules and Regulations on pages 46-52.

Learning disability (also known as specific learning disability) is a general term that describes specific kinds of learning problems. A learning disability can cause a person to have trouble learning and using certain skills. The skills most often affected are: reading, writing, listening, speaking, reasoning, and doing math.

Learning disabilities is not the only term used to describe these difficulties. Others include:

  • Dyslexia—difficulties in reading
  • Dysgraphia—difficulties in writing
  • Dyscalcula—difficulties in math
  • Auditory processing disorder–difficulties in how the brain processes sound
  • Language processing disorder: difficulties in processing language
  • Visual Perceptual/visual motor deficit: difficulties in understanding visual information or ability to copy or draw
  • Non-verbal LD: significant discrepancy between higher verbal skills and weaker motor, visual-spatial and social skills

Learning disabilities (LD) vary from person to person. One person may have trouble with reading and writing while  another person may have problems with understanding math. Still another person may have trouble in both of these areas, as well as with understanding what people are saying.

Researchers think that learning disabilities are caused by differences in how a person’s brain works and how it processes information. Children with learning disabilities are not “dumb” or “lazy.” In fact, they usually have average or above average intelligence. Their brains just process information differently.

LD is a lifelong condition; there is no cure for learning disabilities. However, children with LD can be high achievers and can be taught ways to compensate for the learning disability. With the right help, children with LD can and do learn successfully.

Adapted  from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY).

It’s very helpful to read more about specific learning disabilities. The following are links to additional information:

Specific Learning Disabilities under IDEA 2004

Specific Learning Disability Resources

Dyslexia Handbook

This handbook on dyslexia  from The Utah State Board of Education can be downloaded from this site or a hard copy purchased.

The Understood website

This site provides parents resources and online trainings for parents of children with learning and attention issues.  Fifteen nonprofit organizations have joined forces to support parents of the one in five children with learning and attention issues throughout their journey.

With the right support, parents can help children unlock their strengths and reach their full potential. With state-of-the-art technology, personalized resources, free daily access to experts, a secure online community, practical tips and more, Understood aims to be that support.

Center for Parent Information and Resources

All the materials found on the CPIR Hub have been created and archived for Parent Centers around the country to help them provide support and services to the families they serve. The CPIR employs a user-centered process, gathering the perspectives of our experienced audience—Parent Center staff members and other experts—every step of the way, to create products and services that increase Parent Centers’ knowledge and capacity in specific domains.

Learning Disabilities Association of Utah (LDAU)

LDAU is committed to a world where people with learning disabilities are valued and respected and their potential realized. LDAU is also committed to providing meaningful support that brings effective improvement to the lives of all people impacted by learning disabilities

Learning Disabilities Association of America

Learning Disabilities Association of America,  The LDA is the largest non-profit volunteer organization advocating for individuals with learning disabilities and has over 200 state and local affiliates in 42 states and Puerto Rico.  The membership composed of individuals with learning disabilities, family members and concerned professionals, advocates for the almost three million students of school age with learning disabilities and for adults affected with learning disabilities.  The website contains articles for parents, teachers, professionals, and adults.

LD Online Website

LD Online is a service of WETA , Washington, D.C., in association with The Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities. It is a leading web site on learning disabilities for parents, teachers, and other professionals.

National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD)

The mission of NCLD is to improve the lives of the 1 in 5 children and adults nationwide with learning and attention issues—by empowering parents and young adults, transforming schools and advocating for equal rights and opportunities. We’re working to create a society in which every individual possesses the academic, social and emotional skills needed to succeed in school, at work and in life.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

This site includes a variety of articles regarding central auditory processing disorders and other hearing related issues.

Decoding Dyslexia Website

Decoding Dyslexia Utah is a grassroots movement driven by Utah families concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities within our public schools. We aim to raise dyslexia awareness, empower families to support their children and inform policy-makers on best practices to identify, remediate and support students with dyslexia in Utah public schools.  Decoding Dyslexia Utah is a 501.3.c non-profit.

Reading Rockets Website

Reading Rockets is a national multimedia project offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help.

Other resources:

Utah State Library for the Blind and Disabled

The Program for the Blind and Disabled provides the kinds of materials found in public libraries in formats accessible to the blind and disabled. Books and magazines are available in braille, in large print, and on audio digital books. Services are provided by the Utah State Library Division in cooperation with the Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Services are provided free of charge to eligible readers. Individuals who cannot read regular print because of a visual, physical, or reading disability may apply for service.

Utah State Instructional Materials Access Center

This is a service only schools can access and order materials. This provides textbooks and materials in an alternative format such as braille, large print or audio for students. Requests by the schools are usually made in the spring before the school year the material is needed.


Bookshare® is an ebook library that makes reading easier. People with reading barriers can customize their experience and read in ways that work for them.  In order for you to become a Bookshare® member, an expert must confirm that you have a print disability that severely inhibits or prevents you from reading traditional print materials. Anyone in the world with a qualifying print disability may join Bookshare.

Bookshare® is FREE for qualified U.S. students of any age and schools through an award from OSEP (Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education). People with qualifying conditions who are not U.S. students, and organizations serving them, pay a low membership fee.

Learning Ally

Founded in 1948 as Recording for the Blind, Learning Ally serves more than 300,000 K-12, college and graduate students, veterans and lifelong learners – all of whom cannot read standard print due to blindness, visual impairment, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities. Learning Ally’s collection of more than 65,000 digitally recorded textbooks and literature titles – downloadable and accessible on mainstream as well as specialized assistive technology devices – is the largest of its kind in the world. More than 6,000 volunteers across the U.S. help to record and process the educational materials, which students rely on to achieve academic and professional success.  Learning Ally, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is funded by grants, state and local education programs, and the generous contributions of individuals, foundations and corporations. There is an annual fee for this service.