Learning disabilities – in the classroom, it starts simply — sometimes with a struggle to sound out simple words; sometimes with trouble telling time, memorizing the times tables or learning left from right.

It often ends simply, too: with a troubling statistic.

One in five of the American students identified as having learning disabilities will walk away from their education. That’s compared to a dropout rate of 8 percent in the general population.

Just as startling: Close to half of the secondary students currently identified as having  learning disabilities are more than three grade levels behind in essential academic skills.And it’s widespread.

Roughly 2.4 million students — that’s more than the entire population of Houston, Texas — are known to struggle with learning disabilities.

“Race, culture economic status — learning disabilities don’t discriminate.

It’s real and affects people of all ages,” said Dr. Sheldon H. Horowitz of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, referring to learning disabilities by a common nickname, LD.

In recent days on the PBS NewsHour broadcast, health correspondent Betty Ann Bowser visited a public school in Boston for a better understanding of how this commonly misunderstood set of disorders is playing into the U.S. dropout crisis.

Online, we’ll explore the crossroads of a learning disabilities and art, and we’ll profile two young men — a poet and a Harvard graduate student — who, despite academic struggles, achieved stunning success.

But first, a 101.

Contrary to popular belief, autism isn’t a learning disability.

Neither is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mental illness, or intellectual disability.

Here to walk us through the top misconceptions about learning disabilities and to define exactly what they are — and aren’t — is Dr. Horowitz.



Pat Wyman


Pat Wyman is the founder of HowToLearn.com and a best selling author.


She teaches at California State University, East Bay and is known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert. She helps children and adults solve learning problems with her Amazing Grades Study Skills System and is an expert in learning styles.


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