What’s the difference between “specific learning disability” and “learning disability”?

By Andrew M.I. Lee, JD

Question:

I hear some people use the term “specific learning disability.” Other people just say “learning disability.” What’s the difference between these two terms?  

Answer:

It can be confusing. But the answer is simple — there’s no meaningful difference. 

Specific learning disability is the same as learning disability. The word “specific” refers to an area of learning, like language, reading, or math.

Along the same lines, professionals use the terms specific learning disorder and learning disorder to diagnose conditions. These terms mean the same thing too. Again, the word specific refers to areas of learning.

Keep in mind we’re talking about the United States. Here, the definition of specific learning disability comes from our special education law. The term learning disability has a different meaning in the United Kingdom.

You can learn more here: What are learning disabilities?

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    About the author

    About the author

    Andrew M.I. Lee, JD is an editor and attorney who strives to help people understand complex legal, education, and parenting issues.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Ellen Braaten, PhD is the director of LEAP at Massachusetts General Hospital.