Helpful Information on Some Common Learning Differences

By Drew Sarmiere - November 24, 2019

Helpful Information on Some Common Learning Differences


At Peak we work with many different types of students, including those that are dealing with learning differences.  This blog post is meant to share some helpful information for students and parents who may be dealing with some commonly encountered learning differences as well as to highlight the type of training we provide to our staff here at Peak.  The information below is taken directly from our proprietary teacher’s manual we provide each tutor at Peak and is part of our rigorous training regimen. We hope you find this information helpful and insightful. Of course, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact us anytime!  




One of the most common learning disabilities, dyslexia is a learning disorder that impedes a student’s ability to read and comprehend text. This impediment can manifest itself through a variety of ways including:

  • Phonemic awareness: failing to recognize the way words break down according to sound.

  • Phonological processing: being unable to distinguish between similar word sounds. 

  • Fluency and spelling: the “mixing” of words in text can distort a student’s ability to read fluently or spell correctly. 


Students may experience just one or even multiple issues when struggling with dyslexia. 



  • Reads slowly and painfully

  • Experiences decoding errors, especially with the order of letters

  • Shows wide disparity between listening comprehension and reading comprehension of some text.

  • Has trouble with spelling

  • May have difficulty with handwriting

  • Exhibits difficulty recalling known words

  • Has difficulty with written language

  • May experience difficulty with math computations

  • Decoding real words is better than nonsense words

  • Substitutes one small sight word for another: a, I, he, the, there, was.



  • Special teaching techniques - multisensory experiences, immediate feedback, individualized monitoring of fluency, recognition, comprehension. 

  • Classroom modifications - extra time, taped tests, read aloud directions and instructions

  • Technology - books on tape, word processing programs, spell check. 



Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a common learning impediment. Students who struggle with ADHD have difficulty paying attention and staying on task. Distractibility in traditional school settings is a common symptom of ADHD. Unlike other learning differences that require instructional interventions, ADHD can be treated with medications and behavioral therapy. 


Additionally, there are three known subtypes of ADHD. These include: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined type. To be diagnosed for one type of ADHD over another, a person typically must have more symptoms in one area and few in the other subcategory. It should be noted that the common type of ADHD is the combined type. Listed below are common symptoms for each subcategory of the disorder. 


Subtypes of ADHD

  • Inattentive

    • Lacks attention to detail, careless mistakes often occur

    • Failing to pay attention and stay on task

    • Struggles with listening

    • Unable to follow or understand directions

    • Avoids tasks that involve effort

    • Forgetful, sometimes loses things that are needed to complete tasks.

  • Hyperactive-Impulsive

    • Fidgeting

    • Squirming

    • Getting up often when seated

    • Running or climbing at inappropriate times

    • Loud, talking frequently or out of turn

    • Outbursts

    • Interrupting

    • “On the move”

  • Combined

    • The most common category of ADHD, the combined subtype is for people with symptoms of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive types. 



  • Preferential seating

  • Develop an in-class and in-home routine

  • Provide one task at a time - student repeats back directions

  • Provide expectations, rules, and rubrics - student repeats back



Dyscalculia specifically affects one’s math capabilities and is a wide ranging learning difference. The effects can range from an inability to order numbers correctly to limited strategies for problem solving such as difficulty with basic calculations or concepts such as time, measurement, or estimation. 


  • Difficulty understanding concepts of place value, quantity, number lines, positive and negative value, carrying and borrowing.

  • Difficulty understanding and completing word problems

  • Difficulty sequencing information or events

  • Cannot use steps involved in operations

  • Struggles with fractions

  • Challenged with handling money

  • Displays difficulty recognizing patterns in various concepts and processes



  • Visual techniques - pictures of word problems, differentiate parts of problems

  • Use of memory aids - rhymes and music for memorizing math formulas/concepts

  • Use of computers - best used for additional drills and practice

  • Graph paper, colored pencils, mnemonic devices




Dysgraphia is a writing disability that is also wide ranging in regards to its effects on students. Students with this learning difference often cannot hold a pencil correctly and have tense posture when they write. This combination can lead to discouragement and a lack of progress. Students also have a difficult time organizing their thoughts coherently, may be redundant, or struggle with omissions that affect the quality or readability of the text. This disorder can also lead to basic sentence structure and grammatical awareness. 



  • Illegible printing and cursive writing (despite appropriate time and attention given)

  • Shows inconsistencies: mixtures of print and cursive, upper and lower case, or irregular sizes, shapes or slant of letters

  • Has unfinished words or letters, omitted words

  • Inconsistent spacing between words and letters

  • Exhibits strange wrist, body, or paper position

  • Difficulty pre-visualizing letter formation

  • Copying or writing is slow or labored

  • Shows poor spatial planning on paper

  • Cramped or unusual grip/may complain of sore hand

  • Has difficulty thinking and writing at the same time (taking notes, creative writing)



  • Special Tools - Oral Exams, Note-taker, Record lessons

  • Use of Technology - Word processing programs, audio recorder

  • Teacher Provided Resources - Completed notes, outlines, study sheets

  • Wide ruled paper, graph paper

  • Pencil grips or writing aids


Learning differences are often connected to processing deficits. When a student has a processing deficit, they have trouble making sense of sensory data. This makes it difficult to perform in a traditional classroom without instructional supports. Executive functioning and processing issues can be divided into various categories such as: activation, focus, effort, emotion, memory, and action. Due to the varying nature of these functions, different interventions are necessary for support: 



  • Activation: investigate the cause, help with instructions, prompt to get started.

  • Emotion: Encourage, support, provide help getting started.

  • Cognitive: Develop a plan, chunk out assignments, use graphic organizers.

  • Focus: Reduce distractions, provide white noise, recognize on-task behavior, prompt student when drifting, provide incentives.

  • Working Memory: Repeat directions, encourage questions, give gentle reminders, provide templates of completed work, provide copies of directions, word banks. 

Peak Learning Solutions - providing subject tutoring, academic coaching and executive functioning tutoring, ACT and SAT test prep, and college admissions counseling.  With locations in near Cherry Creek in Glendale, near the Denver Tech Center in Greenwood Village, and in Wilmington, NC.  

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