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What Are Learning Differences?

Lydian Student With Teacher

What do learning differences mean when we talk about academic and life challenges?

Research shows that almost 70 million people think and learn differently, and may find standard school and work environments more difficult to navigate.1 What are some examples of learning differences, and how can we better help students who learn differently reach their goals?

Defining Learning Differences

It is estimated that 1 in 5 students has a learning difference,2 which is defined as having challenges with:

  • Organization
  • Memory
  • Attention

These differences are severe enough to impact performance in academics and daily life. Students with learning differences do not gain skill in these areas as easily as other students, and can benefit from multisensory instruction techniques and alternative learning environments.

The term “learning differences” is used to identify any students who are at risk of marginalization because of the way they think and learn. This allows teachers and parents to explore more diversified teaching strategies to address learning differences in the classroom and at home.

Types of Learning Differences

Students examining DNA model in classroom laboratory

As we explore various examples of learning differences, be aware that many students have more than one of these challenges and that some are recognized conditions while others are characteristics associated with learning challenges.

Some examples of learning differences include:

  • Auditory processing disorder (APD)
  • Language processing disorder (LPD)
  • Nonverbal learning disorder (NVLD)
  • Processing delays
  • Sensory processing challenges
  • Working memory challenges
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Dyslexia (challenges with reading and processing words)
  • Dyscalculia (challenges processing numbers sequentially)
  • Dyspraxia (challenges with processing sounds and numbers)
  • Dysgraphia (challenges with word organization and writing)
  • Executive function deficits (challenges with decision making)

Myths and Misconceptions About Learning Differences

Learning and thinking differently can be a frustrating experience for young people and their parents. There are still many people, including some educators, who believe that these challenges are due to a lack of effort, and that these processing differences do not exist. The fact is, learning differences are based in biology. With the right support and options, students with learning differences can achieve great things academically and in their adult lives.

One-on-One Schools for Learning Differences

Some parents of children with learning differences struggle to get a diagnosis that will allow their child to receive additional support in a traditional classroom environment. Instead of waiting and navigating that process of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and labeling, many parents choose to enroll their child in a private school that offers one-on-one instruction and flexible teaching techniques that help students overcome learning differences.

Some of the benefits of one-on-one schools for learning differences are:

  • Individualized attention and flexibility that leverage the strengths of each student while addressing unique challenges with tailored instruction techniques.
  • Allowing students to progress at their own pace, without being held back by others or feeling they are not keeping up with classmates.
  • The opportunity for a strong relationship with their teachers and the motivation to stay engaged and excited about their courses and projects.
  • Meaningful and constructive feedback between teachers and parents who are both focused on the success of a single student.
  • The ability to reduce distractions and sensory stimulation by creating the ideal learning environment for each young person.
  • Flexible scheduling and rolling enrollment which allows students to make use of breaks, shorter class sessions, and different testing formats to achieve their academic goals.
  • Greater academic and personal growth—visible as increasing confidence and self-esteem in students who are provided the tools and environment they need to succeed.

Ways Parents Can Support Children with Learning Differences

Parents may be the first ones to notice that their child thinks and learns differently, or they may not recognize these subtle differences until a teacher or other professional brings it to their attention. The truth is we all think and learn differently from each other, but knowing that your child has a unique learning challenge allows you to offer the individualized support they need.

Consider these practical tips to help your child:

  • Educate yourself about the specific learning challenges your child has to better understand their strengths and obstacles.
  • Talk to your child about their unique challenges and explain that it helps you to understand the ways they learn differently.
  • Help them feel comfortable and express their feelings, encouraging them to realize that this self-awareness of how they learn will help them achieve more and enjoy learning again.
  • Advocate for your child at school and in daily life to help them get the accommodations they may need by attending meetings and being proactive on their behalf.
  • Provide a study environment at home that minimizes distractions and leverages their strengths with technology, lighting, and sound levels appropriate for their needs.
  • Continuously evaluate their educational environment and explore options like one-on-one classes, tutoring, workshops, and other resources that boost confidence and skills.
  • Celebrate success and encourage independence by modeling and teaching your child how to advocate for themselves and feel comfortable organizing their own work and timelines.

Supporting Learning Differences in the Classroom

Parent and teenager Studying

What do learning differences mean for students who are struggling in a traditional classroom? They may feel left behind, depressed, and demotivated. Because the way they learn does not align with the way the material is presented to them, it is essentially inaccessible. These students do not have the same opportunity to learn, and their grades often reflect this, despite a wealth of innate abilities and a desire to learn.

At Lydian Academy, our mission is to provide a one-on-one learning environment where every student can thrive and rediscover their passion for learning. By creating a flexible and individualized learning program that matches teaching styles to learning styles, we work with parents to help students become confident in their ability to achieve their goals.

Celebrating areas of strength and focusing on areas where growth is needed, we can create the best approach for each subject and develop tools that will help your child succeed throughout their educational journey. We offer the flexibility of rolling enrollment and in-person or virtual learning opportunities for all our students. Schedule a tour of our campuses or attend a virtual open house and learn more about the Lydian approach to learning differences.



We offer a unique year-round one-on-one learning experience, personalized to you and your schedule.

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