Learning Disability vs. Learning Difference:
Is There a Difference?
By Maura Baker
When people talk about neurological conditions such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, etc, they often refer to it as either a learning disability or a learning difference. Is there an actual difference between these two terms, and does it really matter which one you use? Here is a brief explanation of the terms, and what they mean.
Disability vs. Difference
Many people use the two interchangeably, and many like the term “learning difference” better (according to ldanys.org), since it implies that you can still learn even if you have one (or more)- you just need to be taught in a different way. However, others say there is a more distinct difference between the two. Mentalhealth.org.uk states that a learning disability can affect how a person learns life skills, whereas a learning difference affects how a person learns a concept(s) and does not really affect them outside of this area.
Difference in the Law
When it comes to legal rights to accommodations, there’s also a difference between the terms. According to ldanys.org, laws guaranteeing accommodations such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and others, use the term “disability” and not “difference”. This means that people with “learning disabilities” are protected under these laws, and people with “learning differences'' are not. However, this doesn’t mean that people who have what many would classify as a “learning difference” do not get accommodations under these laws, it just means that the term “learning difference” is not typically used in legal matters.
This is just the surface level of the differences between the two terms and when they tend to be used. However, having a knowledge of the terms and what they mean can encourage further discussion among people.