Written By Neitya Pathania, TYV Ambassador, GEMS Our Own English High School- Dubai


Did you know – Richard Branson, Justin Timberlake, Tom Cruise, Daniel Radcliffe, Keira Knightley all have one thing in common apart from being human and famous? Yup, they all have a learning disorder!

Some of you might already know about learning disorders, but for those of you wondering about what they are, don’t worry! We have got precisely the perfect solution… This article will inform you about what learning disorders are, their symptoms, cause, cure, etc., and, Oh! Don’t forget about the celeb facts at the end of the article…

What is it?

Learning Disorder or learning disability is a neurodevelopmental problem where the child is unable to either read, write, properly speak, calculate, listen, pay attention or coordinate their movements. But this doesn’t mean the child is dull or lazy or isn’t smart enough, it is just because of their brain being aligned differently.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “5-15 % of children (have) learning disorders during their school-age.” And out of those, almost 80% of children have a particular reading disorder – Dyslexia. Also, one-third of people who have a learning disorder are also faced with the challenge of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

If not identified and taken care of, learning disorder can adversely affect ones’ mental, physical, social, and economic development; apart from just academics.

Cause of Learning Disorders

The cause of learning disorder is not completely discovered yet but some of the possible causes can be:

  • An inherited or genetic condition – passed from the parents, which affects the brain’s development
  • Complications during birth that resulted in a lack of oxygen to the brain
  • A premature birth
  • Mother’s illness during pregnancy
  • The mother drinking during pregnancy
  • An illness or injury in early childhood- mentally or physically (for example a road traffic accident or child abuse)
  • Contact with radioactive materials (like radiation).

Diagnosis of Learning Disorder

Diagnosis can only start once formal education starts. A child can only be said to have a learning disorder if he or she matches the following criteria.

  • Despite targeted help, if a child is having difficulty in at least one of the six spheres mentioned below for a minimum of six months:
    • Reading (e.g., inaccurate, slow and only with much effort).
    • Understanding the meaning of what is read
    • Spelling
    • Written expressions (e.g., problems with grammar, punctuation or organisation)
    • Understanding number concepts and facts or calculation
    • Mathematical reasoning (e.g., applying math concepts or solving math problems).
  • Have substantially low academic skills than expected for their age, which might cause problems at school, work or in everyday activities.

A diagnosis can be done through a combination of interviews, observation, family history and school reports. The best ways to help an individual with learning disorder can be found through a neuropsychological test.

Types of Learning Disorders

  • Dyslexia – Difficulties with reading (Problems related to reading, writing, spelling or speaking)
  • Dyscalculia – Difficulties with maths (Problems solving math problems, understanding time or using money)
  • Dysgraphia – Difficulties with writing (Problems with spelling, handwriting or organising ideas)
  • Dyspraxia (Sensory Integration Disorder) – Difficulties with fine motor skills
    (Problems like hand-eye coordination, balance or manual dexterity)
  • Dysphasia/Aphasia – Difficulties with language (Problems with poor reading comprehension and understanding spoken language)
  • Auditory Processing Disorder – Difficulties in processing different sounds
  • Visual Processing Disorder – Difficulties with interpreting visual information

Some of the other types of disorders that may affect learning are:

  • ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD can affect one’s learning process even though it is not a learning disorder. The problem here is related to attention. People who have this disorder have difficulty sitting still, staying focussed, following instructions and completing tasks.
  • Autism/Autistic Spectrum Disorder – This is yet another disorder which can significantly affect one’s learning process. Children with autism most face difficulty in communicating, reading body language, learning basic skills, making friends, and making eye contact.

Although the above disorders can pose challenges for those who are diagnosed (and sometimes a period of anxiety and frustration during the process of seeking a diagnosis), it’s vital to remember that those individuals who have learning disorders can still go on to achieve great success – professionally, academically, socially and personally. Just take a look at the celebs below who did not let their learning disorders stand in their way!


  • Richard Branson – Dyslexia
  • Justin Timberlake– Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (a mental health diagnosis) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
  • Tom Cruise– Dyslexia
  • Daniel Radcliffe – Dyspraxia
  • Adam Levine– Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
  • Cher– Dyslexia and Dyscalculia