Language-Based Learning Disability Terms

LBLD Terms Defined and Demystified

As you go through the process of having your child assessed for and potentially diagnosed with a language-based learning disability (LBLD), you will encounter an alphabet soup of acronyms and terms. Here are definitions of frequently encountered terms.language-based learning disability logo


Services provided to a student in school that allow "a student to complete the same assignment or test as other students, but with a change in the timing, formatting, setting, scheduling, response and/or presentation."1

Anxiety disorders

"Disorders that share features of excessive fear and anxiety and related behavioral disturbances."2

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

“A persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.”3

  • Inattention manifests behaviorally in ADHD as wandering off task, lacking persistence, having difficulty sustaining focus, and being disorganized and is not due to defiance or lack of comprehension.
  • Hyperactivity refers to excessive motor activity when it is not appropriate, or excessive fidgeting, tapping, or talkativeness.
  • Impulsivity refers to hasty actions that occur in the moment without forethought and that have high potential for harm to the individual.4

Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)

"Refers to the efficiency and effectiveness by which the central nervous system (CNS) utilizes auditory information."5


The presence of more than one distinct condition in an individual. The conditions can include: diseases, disorders, conditions, illnesses, or health problems.6 For people with SLD and LBLDs these conditions commonly include anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and language disorder, among others.7


Using “visual, syntactic, or semantic cues to make meaning from words and sentences.”8


"Dyslexia is a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person's ability to read. These individuals typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence. Although the disorder varies from person to person, common characteristics among people with dyslexia are difficulty with phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds), spelling, and/or rapid visual-verbal responding...Dyslexia can be inherited in some families, and recent studies have identified a number of genes that may predispose an individual to developing dyslexia."9

Learn more about dyslexia by reading these frequently asked questions about dyslexia from the International Dyslexia Association.


Dyscalculia is a learning disorder that results in “difficulty acquiring basic arithmetic skills that is not explained by low intelligence or inadequate schooling.10 People with dyscalculia have difficulties “processing numerical information, learning arithmetic facts, and performing accurate or fluent calculations.11

Read more details about dyscalculia, including symptoms and strategies to help students who have dyscalculia.


“Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities. Specifically, the disorder causes a person's writing to be distorted or incorrect. In children, the disorder generally emerges when they are first introduced to writing. They make inappropriately sized and spaced letters or write wrong or misspelled words, despite thorough instruction. Children with the disorder may have other learning disabilities; however, they usually have no social or other academic problems. In addition to poor handwriting, dysgraphia is characterized by wrong or odd spelling, and production of words that are not correct (i.e., using "boy" for "child").12

Read more about dysgraphia, including symptoms and recommended accommodations.

Executive function

“A set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one's resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.”13 These processes include (but are not limited to): initiating tasks, planning, organizing materials, and self-monitoring.

Fluid reasoning

"The capacity to think logically and solve problems in novel situations, independent of acquired knowledge. It is an essential component of cognitive development, as this capacity serves as a scaffold for children, in helping them acquire other abilities.”14

Impairment of Written Expression

Impairment of written expression is a learning difficulty that results in difficulty with “spelling accuracy, grammar and punctuation accuracy, and clarity or organization of written expression.”15


An intervention is a formal, specific program or set of steps to help a child improve in an area of need. It lasts a set period of time and a child’s progress is measured and reviewed at predetermined intervals.16

Kinesthetic-tactile learning

A style of learning that requires manipulating or touching material or movement of the body to learn. Kinesthetic techniques are used in combination with visual and/or auditory study techniques, producing multi-sensory learning.17

Language-Based Learning Disabilities (LBLDs)what is a language-based learning disability logo

LBLDs cause “problems with age-appropriate reading, spelling, and/or writing. Most people diagnosed with learning disabilities have average to superior intelligence.”18 People with LBLDs can also struggle with speaking and listening. LBLDs fall under the broader umbrella of Specific Learning Disability (SLD).

Language Disorders (formerly Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder or Expressive Language Disorder)

There are two categories of language disorders: mixed receptive-expressive and expressive. People with a mixed receptive-expressive language disorder have difficulty understanding the meaning of what other people are saying, which affects their oral expression as well. An expressive language disorder results in difficulty conveying one’s thoughts, ideas, and feelings verbally, although they comprehend the spoken language.

Read more about language disorders.

Phonemic awareness

The ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in words.”19

Phonological awareness

“A skill that includes identifying and manipulating units of oral language, such as words, syllables, and onsets and rimes.”20

Processing speed

The pace at which one takes in information (either visually or auditorily), makes sense of it, and begins to respond.21

Reading comprehension 

“The understanding and interpretation of what is read. To be able to accurately understand written material, children need to be able to (1) decode what they read; (2) make connections between what they read and what they already know; and (3) think deeply about what they have read.”22

Reading fluency

“The ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with expression. Fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. When fluent readers read silently, they recognize words automatically. They group words quickly to help them gain meaning from what they read. Fluent readers read aloud effortlessly and with expression. Their reading sounds natural, as if they are speaking. Readers who have not yet developed fluency read slowly, word by word.”23

Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder (SCD)

An SCD "is characterized by a persistent difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication that cannot be explained by low cognitive ability. Symptoms include difficulty in the acquisition and use of spoken and written language as well as problems with inappropriate responses in conversation. The disorder limits effective communication, social relationships, academic achievement, or occupational performance. Symptoms must be present in early childhood even if they are not recognized until later when speech, language, or communication demands exceed abilities.” 24

Learn more about Social Communication Disorder, including symptoms, assessment, and treatment.

Specific Learning Disability (SLD)

An SLD is a “disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, in which the disorder 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.”25

Visual-spatial ability

“The capacity to understand and remember the spatial relations among objects…Visual-spatial skills are of great importance for success in solving many tasks in everyday life. For instance, using a map to guide you through an unfamiliar city, merging into high-speed traffic, and orienting yourself in your environment.”26

Word attack

Skills used to decode, pronounce, and understand unfamiliar words.

Working memory

A system for temporarily storing and managing the information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension.27

  1. The Difference Between Accommodations and Modifications [webpage]. Retrieved from
  2. American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5 (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.  p. 189
  3. American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5 (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.  p. 61
  4. American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5 (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.  p. 61
  5. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (Central) Auditory Processing Disorders (webpage]. Retrieved from
  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Defining Comorbidity: Implications for Understanding Health and Health Services [webpage]. Retrieved from
  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Neuropsychopathological Comorbidities in Learning Disorders [webpage]. Retrieved from:
  8. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Threads of Reading [webpage]. Retrieved from
  9. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Dyslexia Information Page [webpage]. Retrieved from
  10. U.S. National Library of Medicine (November 9, 2012). The Diagnosis and Management of Dyscalculia [webpage]. Retrieved from
  11. American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5 (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association. p. 67
  12. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Dysgraphia Information Page [webpage]. Retrieved from
  13. LD OnLine. What Is Executive Functioning? [webpage]. Retrieved from LD OnLine
  14. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Fluid Reasoning and the Developing Brain [webpage]. Retrieved from
  15. American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5 (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.  p. 67
  16. Instructional Intervention: What You Need to Know [webpage]. Retrieved from
  17. Houghton College. Kinesthetic-Tactile Learning Style [webpage]. Retrieved from
  18. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Language-Based Learning Disabilities (Reading, Spelling, and Writing) [webpage]. Retrieved from
  19. Reading Rockets. Phonological and Phonemic Awareness [webpage]. Retrieved from
  20. Reading Rockets. Phonological and Phonemic Awareness [webpage]. Retrieved from
  21. Processing Speed: What You Need to Know [webpage]. Retrieved from:
  22. Reading Rockets. Comprehension [webpage]. Retrieved from:
  23. Reading Rockets. Fluency [webpage]. Retrieved from:
  24. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) (2013). [webpage]. Retrieved from
  25. U.S. Department of Education. Building the Legacy: IDEA 2004 [webpage]. Retrieved from,root,regs,300,A,300.8,c,.html
  26. Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. What Is Spatial Ability? [webpage]. Retrieved from
  27. Working Memory [webpage].