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Reading and Learning Disabilities: A Resource Guide

(Update, January 1995)



National Information Center
for Children and Youth with Disabilities



A look at learning disabilities in children and youth

Helping Your Child Learn

Adults with Reading or Learning Problems

Information Resources from NICHCY's Database

Organizational Resources


Learning and Other Disabilities

Related Articles

General Information about Learning Disabilities

Learning Disabilities

The National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY) is pleased to respond to your request for information about the problems many children, youth, and adults experience with learning -- in particular, with learning to read.

Having difficulty with reading is by no means unusual. Millions of people in the United States have trouble reading. Some may not be able to read at all, while others have basic reading skills but might be considered "slow readers." It is useful to know that problems with reading are often accompanied by problems with writing, listening, or speaking. Each person having trouble in any or all of these areas should know that help is available.

There are many reasons why a person might have difficulty in developing reading skills. One of the most common reasons is that the person has what is known as a learning disability. Dyslexia is one such learning disability. There are also many other types of learning disabilities that can cause problems with learning to read or learning in general. These are described later in this guide.

Not all troubles with reading are caused by learning disabilities. It is important to determine what is causing the problem. Some causes other than learning disabilities are poor vision or hearing, emotional disturbance, or mental retardation. A person having trouble with reading should talk with specialists in the reading field and receive a thorough assessment. Through assessment, the nature of the reading problem can be determined. Then action can be taken to help the person overcome his or her specific problem.

This information brief has been developed with two major purposes in mind. These are:

  1. to describe some of the most common learning disabilities that can cause reading problems; and

  2. to put you in touch with organizations that can provide you with help to fit your needs.

This paper is organized into sections as follows:

  1. a look at learning disabilities in children and youth;

  2. suggestions for parents in how to help their school-age children learn;

  3. considerations for adults with reading and learning problems, including a description of the diagnostic process for adults; and

  4. book and organizational resources for: parents of school-age children with learning disabilities; adults with learning disabilities; and educators or other service providers who work with individuals with reading problems and/or learning disabilities.

We hope that you will take advantage of the expertise and assistance offered by the many excellent organizations we have listed throughout this document. They can help you to work with and overcome your reading problems. If you find you have need of additional information or assistance, please feel free to contact NICHCY again.


This Briefing Paper was made possible through the generosity of Robert Halmi, Sr., Executive Producer of "The Secret," a Kraft General Foods Premier Movie which aired on CBS-TV in 1992 and again in 1994. A production of RHI Entertainment, inc., "The Secret" is the story of a grandfather and grandson who both have dyslexia, a learning disability that affects one in every seven people. NICHCY hopes that, through Mr. Halmi's generosity, individuals who have problems with reading, and with learning in general, can use this Briefing Paper to locate the many resources available to address their special learning needs.

NICHCY thanks our Project Officer, Dr. Sara Conlon, at the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, for her time in reading and reviewing this document. We also thank the following individuals for their contributions: Dr. Larry Silver and the Learning Disabilities Association of Montgomery County, Inc., of Maryland, for permission to reprint Dr. Silver's article; Sally L. Smith, Founder and Director of the Lab School of Washington, DC, for her permission to reprint material from her book; Rhona Hartman of the HEATH Resource Center for permission to adapt and reprint material from HEATH; and Neil Sturomski, for his timely review and suggestions. NICHCY also thanks all the helpful individuals who provided and verified the information about the various organizations mentioned in this document. Finally, the Editor would like to thank Eve Robins, Information Specialist at NICHCY, for her patience and many valuable suggestions.

Project Director: Suzanne Ripley
Editor: Lisa Kupper

This fact sheet is made possible through Cooperative Agreement #H030A30003 between the Academy for Educational Development and the Office of Special Education Programs. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsement by the U. S. Government.

The Academy for Educational Development, founded in 1961, is an independent, nonprofit service organization committed to addressing human development needs in the United States and throughout the World. In partnership with its clients, the Academy seeks to meet today's social, economic, and environmental challenges through education and human resource development; to apply state-of-the-art education, training, research, technology, management, behavioral analysis, and social marketing techniques to solve problems; and to improve knowledge and skills throughout the world as the most effective means for stimulating growth, reducing poverty, and promoting democratic and humanitarian ideals.

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