LD Defined

A Learning Disability (LD) is a neurologically-based, hereditary condition that affects a person’s ability to learn in “typical” ways. Children and adults with LD have challenges understanding and using language and their ability to receive, process, recall and communicate information is affected. They typically have above average intelligence an all they need to succeed is an understanding of their learning style and the tools and confidence to overcome their challenges.

Learning Disabilities vary considerably in their expression, severity, and impact. Learning Disabilities encompass a cluster of disorders, and no one individual will display all of them. For example, some people with LD have a math difficulty, whereas others excel in math but struggle with reading. Difficulties may also affect learning in different ways at different age levels. For example, an underlying language disorder may appear as a delayed speech problem in the preschooler, as a reading disorder in the elementary student, and as a writing disorder in the secondary student.

Only a professional evaluation by a registered Psychologist can determine the presence of a Learning Disability.

Common Characteristics:

  • Perceptual and information processing problems: difficulty with processing information that is presented either in a visual or auditory manner.
  • Language and auditory processing problems: difficulty with processing language and information presented verbally. These can include problems with listening, speaking, vocabulary, and in other areas of language.
  • Written language difficulties: problems with spelling, handwriting, and/or written composition.
  • Mathematics difficulties: difficulty in understanding or thinking in quantities, problems understanding time and/or space concepts, and recalling and/or using number facts.
  • Disorders of Attention: hyperactivity, distractibility, poor concentration, short attention span (see the definition for Attention Deficit Disorders).
  • Failure to develop and use strategies for learning: lack of organizational skills, inactive learning style, and a lack of self-awareness about how one learns.
  • Poor motor abilities: poor fine and/or gross motor coordination, general awkwardness and clumsiness, spatial problems.

Learning disabilities are life-long. The way in which they are expressed may vary over an individual’s lifetime, depending on the interaction between the demands of the environment and the individual’s strengths and needs.

Learning disabilities are due to genetic and/or neurobiological factors or injury that alters brain functioning in a manner which affects one or more processes related to learning. These disorders are not due primarily to hearing and/or vision problems, socio-economic factors, cultural or linguistic differences, lack of motivation or ineffective teaching, although these factors may further complicate the challenges faced by individuals with Learning Disabilities. Learning Disabilities may co-exist with various conditions including attentional, behavioural and emotional disorders, sensory impairments or other medical conditions.

Learning Disabilities Indicators:

In Infancy:

  • Trouble with nursing, sucking or digesting
  • Resistance to cuddling and body contact
  • Lack of, or excessive response to sounds or other stimulus
  • Delays in sitting, standing, walking
  • Little or no vocalization
  • Irritability

In the Preschool Years:

  • Delayed language and immature speech patterns
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Cannot skip, has trouble bouncing and catching a ball
  • Impulsive, cannot control behaviour
  • Fearless
  • Does not respond to discipline

In Adolescence:

  • Poor and laborious handwriting and/or bizarre spelling mistakes
  • Disorganized; books in a mess, notes out of order, loses things
  • Poor social skills, few friends, or socializes with a younger group
  • Lacks insights into his own future, his strengths and weaknesses
  • Tendency to be very literal, rigid, humourless, and/or gullible
  • Vulnerable to peer pressure, often the “scapegoat” in situations

In Adulthood:

  • Excellent verbal ability, but cannot express thoughts on paper
  • Mechanical aptitude, but difficulty with reading, writing or spelling
  • Lacks social skills and has difficulty maintaining relationships or making friends
  • Learns well when shown, but cannot follow written and/or verbal instructions
  • Feels constantly anxious, tense, depressed and has a very poor self-concept
  • Cannot organize belongings, time, activities or responsibilities

Many children, adolescents or adults experience one or more of the above signs in the normal course of their development. Only when a number of these characteristics are present might there be an indication of a learning disability.

Only a professional evaluation can determine the presence of a learning disability.

I’m A Parent

Is your child diagnosed with a Learning Disability or do you suspect that they may have a learning challenge? The Learning Disabilities Association of Vancouver (LDAV) has been helping families for over 40 years. With a little help, children and youth with Learning Disabilities can learn to recognize their strengths and overcome their learning challenges to succeed. Read below to learn more about Learning Disabilities and how we can help.

What is a Learning Disability:

Learning Disabilities refer to a number of disorders which may affect the acquisition, organization, retention, understanding or use of verbal or nonverbal information. These disorders affect learning in individuals who otherwise demonstrate at least average abilities essential for thinking and/or reasoning. As such, learning disabilities are distinct from global intellectual deficiency. Learn more about the characteristics of Learning Disabilities on our LD links page.

As a parent, if you have concerns about your child’s development you should seek help. You should collect information about your child’s performance and meet with the child’s day-care providers, nannies, and babysitters to discuss these concerns. Ask them to observe your child’s ability and development in those areas of concern. Gather the information and contact your family physician or pediatrician.

The pediatrician is usually the first person to consult about a young child. Because developing a standard of what is normal and what is not takes experience with many babies and children, parents of young children are wise to have a pediatrician or family doctor to whom they can turn. Such health-care professionals recognize normal development and they are experienced in suggesting management at different stages of growth.

How we can help:

The LDAV offers a range of programs and services to support the diagnosis and remediation of children and youth aged 5-17 with suspected or diagnosed Learning Disabilities. We work with parents to help them understand their child’s unique situation and provide advice and referrals. We also provide parents with the tools and information they need to access important resources and advocate for their child within the school system. Visit our program and services  section to find out more about:

Call us today for a consultation or complete an New Client- Intake Call Sheet and email it to info@ldav.ca. If you are not in Metro Vancouver or the Lower Mainland visit www.ldabc.ca to find the Learning Disabilities Association Chapter nearest to you.

For more detailed information about your rights, special education, individual education plans, frequently asked questions and options for problem solving download the Know Your Rights guide.

Parent Information Sessions:

Attend one of our Parent Information sessions to learn more about advocating for your child, understanding different forms of Learning Disabilities, financial resource and more.Find out about upcoming workshops.

WAMS Workshops:

The Walk a Mile in My shoes Workshop is an experiential program designed to give the audience a deep understanding if what it’s like to have a Learning Disability. The workshop can be tailored to children and youth, educators, parents, and the workplace and is available in 1 hour, 2 hour, ½ day or full day segments. Check out the WAMS schedule to learn more about the next workshop or call us today to book a custom workshop. Learn more

Helpful Links:

Go to our  LD Links page for a comprehensive list of links.


Information on this website is provided solely as a service; this does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation or certification by the Learning Disabilities Association Vancouver (LDAV), and should not in any way be construed as a suggestion that any names or companies listed have a relationship with LDAV.

Information is provided for the convenience of those inquiring. All arrangements are between the consumer and the service provider.

I’m A Teacher

How we work with Schools and Teachers

The LDAV has relationships with many schools and teachers across Metro Vancouver. We also work closely with the Vancouver School Board, multicultural workers, school based resource teams and others. The LDAV does not replace school supports for children but rather works to complement and enhance them. We collaborate with schools and teachers in the following ways:

Wrap-Around Service Delivery:

We work collaboratively with parents and teachers and other professionals such as Psychologists and Speech Therapists to assess each child’s learning styles and create a plan for success. Our aim is to include all relevant partners in the establishment and tracking of goals and strategies.

Teacher Training and Workshops:

We offer a range of workshops and training specifically designed to assist teachers and school based resource teams. These workshops offer cutting-edge information and research on Learning Disabilities. Our annual Speaking of Kids Conference  offers educators an opportunity to connect with resources and see world-renowned speakers. We also offer customizable workshops for students and school faculty. These workshops are designed to provide teachers with more in-depth knowledge about Learning Disabilities, cues to identify suspected Learning Disabilities and how to support children with LD in the classroom. Our staff can also work with teachers to identify students with suspected LD and suggest follow-up actions. See our Workshops and Outreach page for more information or contact us ] today to find our more.

Community Satellite-School Partnerships:

Our Community Satellite-School Program is an innovative service delivery model wherein we work with schools to deliver on-site services to children in their “home school”. We are invited by teachers and school administration to offer these services in the school as a complimentary support. This model reduces barriers for our most vulnerable children and provides them with access to the learning supports they need to succeed. The program currently operates in four schools across Metro Vancouver. Contact our Program Coordinator to learn more.

Our Approach:

Standard Practice:

Our Standard Practice for student assessment and remediation is based on Ministry of Education practices and procedures for special education and prescribed learning outcomes.

The Education Consultant and Tutors use the Brigance Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills, Psychological Educational Assessment, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy and other Professional assessments, Individual Education Plans (IEPs), report cards and all other relevant documentation to assess a child’s current level of performance and academic achievement.

We use this information to establish a baseline for the child, and set three Individual Learning Goals to be measured at the mid- and post- term points at LDAV. The Brigance and other tools assist us in documenting the gains students have made.

One-on-One and Group Programs:

We offer a range of programs for children that are focused on building self-esteem and increasing social skills and academic achievement. Our goal is to ensure that programs remain accessible to all families. We work closely with families to explore financial options and generous support from our donors allows us to keep fees low as well as offer bursaries and scholarships. See our Programs and Services page for a full description.
Referring a student to LDAV

If you suspect a child in your class has a Learning Disability or you know a child has a Learning Disability and you are seeking further resources and support please complete the Community Referral Form (will be posted soon) and fax it to the LDAV Office. Contact us if you have any questions


I’m a Therapist

The LDAV works with a variety of children’s specialists to deliver wrap-around service to the children and youth we serve. Many Clinical Psychologists provide referrals to us and partner with LDAV to provide Psychological Educational Assessments for clients. We also work with Speech and Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, School Councellors, School Psychologists, Registered Clinical Counsellors and many others to ensure children receive the services they require to succeed.

To make a referral, download our Community Referral Form or contact our program coordinator. 


I’m An Adult With LD

The Learning Disabilities Association of Vancouver offers services to children and youth aged 5-17. In some cases we will offer services to youth up to the age of 19, however, at this time we do not provide supports to adults with Learning Disabilities.

Learning Disabilities refer to a number of disorders which may affect the acquisition, organization, retention, understanding or use of verbal or nonverbal information. These disorders affect learning in individuals who otherwise demonstrate at least average abilities essential for thinking and/or reasoning. As such, learning disabilities are distinct from global intellectual deficiency.Learn more about the characteristics of Learning Disabilities on our LD Resources page.

Society is coming to understand that everyone is wired to learn in their own way and that we must all celebrate our unique learning strengths. In fact, many very successful entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, and Richard Branson of Virgin grew up with Learning Disabilities. Diagnosing your Learning Disability  (LD) is an important part of understanding your learning challenges and strengths. Once you know how your brain learns you can open up a world of possibility.

It is never too late to get help for learning disabilities. Testing specialists are available for people of all ages, and assistance is available for every stage of life. Taking the initiative to seek out support and services is the first step in dealing learning disabilities. Many adults (some of whom are unaware of their LDs) have developed ways to cope with their difficulties and are able to lead successful lives. LDs shouldn’t hinder a person from attaining goals. Regardless of the situation, understanding the specific challenges and learning strategies to deal with LDs directly at every stage can alleviate a lot of frustration and make successful living much easier

What to do:

If you believe you may have a Learning Disability

  1. Speak with your family doctor about your concerns.
  2. Take an online test – The National Centre for Learning Disabilities in the U.S.A has some great resources here
  3. Contact a Psychologist to have an assessment completed.
  4. If you are in University or College contact the Student Services, Disability Services or Career Counseling Centre at your school

Where to get help:

The following resources can be contacted for more information:

Tutoring, information and support, employment services and more:

Online resources, tests, information and more:

Other Resources:

Walk a Mile in My Shoes Workshops

Interested in Learning more about LD, or educating colleagues and peers at your school or workplace? The Walk a Mile in My Shoes Workshop is an interactive workshop that provides participants with a deeper understanding of what it’s like to have a Learning Disability. Learn more here.

Know Your Rights

There are many laws and policies that govern your right to assistance and supports. Visit the following sites for more information:

** This information was copied in part from the Know your Rights Handbook developed by “Know Your Rights” is a project of the Learning Disabilities Association of British Columbia, South Vancouver Island Chapter (LDA-SVI). It was funded by the Law Foundation of British Columbia.

Download the full version here.