Learning Differences

Unique Learners & Learning Differences

Modernizing schools to properly identify and support unique learner needs

Common Learning Differences That Affect Learning And Behavior

1 in 5 children in the United States have learning and attention issues. Only a small subset receives specialized instruction or accommodations. Even fewer receive clinical or customized support to properly target and address the cognitive issues that affect their learning.

Most schools are designed around the concept of an “average learner.” Yet, research shows averages don’t exist particularly when it comes to learning. Every learner has a unique cognitive profile, and supporting behaviors and emotions that affect how effectively they process information to learn. On the other hand, learning success does reveal commonalities (science-based strategies and techniques that ensure deep learning). Schools should foster a better understanding of how effective learning takes place in their students while training teachers on the science of learning so they can be more effective in their teaching outcomes. How learning differences are addressed also needs to be upgraded with more nuanced and clinical approaches to identifying learning differences and adequately supporting these students so they can realize their potential.


No two students possess the same learning profile as learning is a complex process that relies on many cognitive skills, as well as behaviors and is affected by their emotions. Most learning difficulties can be identified clearly through a neuropsychological evaluation or a cognitive profile that measures each cognitive domain responsible for a student’s learning success. Here, the cognitive weakness responsible for their struggles can usually be identified. If the student’s strengths are not leveraged and/or their areas of weakness are not properly addressed, then the student may not only fail to reach their potential but become hostage to their areas of difficulty which can unravel with misbehaviors and negative emotional consequences. In these cases, it is not uncommon for a student to spiral into a negative cycle of misbehaviors and negative emotions, posing the following risks:

  • Repeating a grade: while repeating a grade is a common practice for struggling students, outcomes tend to produce students with less favorable performance and greater misbehaviors because of repeating a grade. In general, the extent of the relationship between grade repetition and educational outcomes differs according to whether students have repeated a grade in primary or secondary school.
  • Dropping Out: students with specific learning differences/disabilities are three times more likely to drop-out of high-school (18% for students with learning disabilities vs. 6% national average in the United States). The primary reasons cited are poor relationships and negative attitudes towards school which are caused by inadequate support/interventions.
  • College Completion: students with learning difficulties are half as likely to enroll in college and only 41% complete college (compared to 52% for the national average in the United States).
  • Unemployment: less than one in two (46%) of working age adults with learning disabilities are employed in the US.
  • Misbehavior & Legal Consequences: The majority of young adults in the juvenile detention system have a learning disability.
1 in 1
percent of parents reported:

Researchers estimate fewer than 1 in 20 children are explicitly taught how to learn effectively while in school. Similarly, most teachers are not trained on the science of learning, which limits their ability to develop self-regulated learners.

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