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Some students with learning disabilities prefer distance learning courses. Information is easily repeated and online discussion boards allow students to assist one another.

Characteristics of College Students with Learning Disabilities

Some typical characteristics of students with learning disabilities are broken into categories and listed below. No student has all of these concerns buy may have difficulties that fall into several categories.


  • Avoids reading
  • Confusion of similar words
  • Difficulty of using phonics
  • Problems reading multisyllable words
  • Slow reading rate and/or difficulty adjusting speed to the nature of the reading task
  • Difficulty with comprehension and retention of material that is read, but not with material presented orally


  • Avoids writing
  • Difficulty with sentence structure, poor grammar, omitted words
  • Frequent spelling errors, inconsistent spelling, letter reversals
  • Difficulty copying from board or overhead
  • Poor formed letters, difficulty with spacing, capitals, and punctuation
  • Difficulty organizing ideas in a formal essay
  • Trouble summarizing

Oral Language

  • Difficulty attending to spoken language, inconsistent concentration
  • Difficulty expressing ideas orally which the student seems to understand
  • Problems describing events or stories in proper sequence
  • Residual problems with grammar, difficulty with word endings


  • Difficulty memorizing basic facts, such as multiplication tables
  • Confusion of reversal of numbers, number sequence, or operational symbols
  • Difficulty copying problems, aligning columns
  • Difficulty reading or comprehending word problems
  • Problems with reasoning and abstract concepts

Study Skills

  • Poor organization and time management
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Poor organization of notes and other written materials
  • A need for more time to complete assignments

Social Skills

  • Difficulty "reading" facial expressions, body language
  • Problems interpreting subtle messages such as sarcasm
  • Confusion in spatial orientation, getting lost easily, difficulty following directions
  • Disorientation in time


  • Late to class, forgets appointments, etc.
  • Trouble with open-ended questions on tests
  • Weak memory skills
  • Difficulty adjusting to new settings
  • Works slowly
  • Poor grasp of abstract concepts
  • Either pays too little attention to details or focuses on them too much
  • Misreads information
  • Difficulty with text only online courses

Successful college students with learning disabilities

  • Had previous college experience(i.e., they had tried college more than once)
  • Took a lighter course load
  • Had more high school English courses
  • Sought help with study skills (Telander 1994)
  • Moderate LD and higher than average IQ
  • Above average socioeconomic backgrounds
  • Social and psychological support systems (Gerber and Reiff1994; Greenbaum et al. 1996)
  • Knowledgeable about their disability
  • Creative in compensatory strategies
  • Took control of their lives
  • Goal oriented and persistent
  • Chose environments that suited their abilities and disabilities (Reiff et al. 1995; Telander 1994)

Adults with Learning Disabilities. ERIC Digest N. 189 www.ericdigests.org/1998-2/adults.htm

Useful Resources:

LDOnline offers resources for faulty that support their understanding of Learning Disabilities.

The Faculty Lounge is a disability resource site for faculty and administrators at postsecondary institutions.

Last Modified 11/11/10