The Main Types of Learning Difficulties

Knowing and identifying the main types of learning difficulties is essential when working with children and adolescents.
The Main Types of Learning Difficulties

Last update: 27 November, 2020

In general, when we talk about learning difficulties, we automatically think of students with special educational needs. However, we shouldn’t confuse these with intellectual disabilities, which are a distinct category within special education. That’s why, in this article, we’ll explain the main types of learning difficulties.

Main types of learning difficulties: What do they consist of?

As defined by the National Joint Committee for Learning Disabilities (NJCLD), learning difficulties refer to a range of impairments that result in difficulty with speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical skills.

As for their origin, these alterations are intrinsic to the individual and are due to dysfunctions of the central nervous system. They can take place throughout the entire life cycle.

Unless they receive personalized educational attention, students who present difficulties in following the ordinary educational system and don’t achieve the objectives set for their corresponding academic level, won’t be able to progress despite how hard they try or how effectively they’re taught.

The Main Types of Learning Difficulties

Now that we’ve defined the concept, what are the main types of learning difficulties when it comes to academics?


Dyslexia, in general terms and from a clinical point of view, refers to difficulties in learning to read and write. According to Benito Marín, specialist in language psychology, a child is dyslexic when he has difficulties in learning to read, despite having sufficient intellectual development.

When speaking of dyslexia, we must know how to distinguish the different forms in which it can appear:

  • Acquired dyslexia: According to the psychologist Fernando Cuetos, it includes all those students who, even having achieved a certain level of reading, lose reading abilities due to brain injury.
  • Developmental dyslexia: This originates in the process of acquisition of the ability to read and write in the school context. It doesn’t involve trauma or neurological injury. In other words, the student never learned to read properly, which leads to disadvantage with respect to their peers.


According to, “dyscalculia is a math learning disorder that makes mathematical reasoning and computation difficult, in spite of adequate education, average or greater intelligence, and proper motivation.

In other words, it refers to a difficulty in making mathematical calculations, identifying numbers, etc.

Dysgraphia, one of the main types of learning difficulties

With respect to dysgraphia, this refers to difficulties in learning to write in terms of the way in which the students express handwriting and coherence.

The Main Types of Learning Difficulties
  • Acquired dysgraphia, like acquired dyslexia, is when students lose writing skills after suffering a trauma or stroke.
  • Developmental dysgraphia manifests itself in difficulties in learning to write.
  • Graphomotor dysgraphia consists of a practical disorder that affects handwriting, specifically legibility and regularity.


Dysorthography consists of the writing errors that students make in terms of morphological structure, without affecting the layout or graphics.

In other words, as defined by Marín, dysorthography refers to writing difficulties that affect the learning and automation of the processes responsible for the student’s appropriate spelling of the spoken word.

In short, both parents and educators must know the main types of learning difficulties and how to identify them. At the same time, they must inform the child’s school as well as relevant professionals and specialists.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Cuetos, F. (2006). Psicología de la lectura. Diagnóstico y tratamiento. Madrid: Wolters Kluwer.
  • Cuetos, F. (2009). Psicología de la escritura. Diagnóstico y tratamiento de los trastornos de escritura. Madrid: Madrid: Wolters Kluwer.
  • Marín, B. (2019). Dificultades de aprendizaje y Atención a la Diversidad. Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.