A commonly held belief that children who have learning disabilities must also have a low IQ or low intelligence is an incredibly false premise that perpetuates many stereotypes, and frequently leads to low self-esteem and even a lack of support due to a desire not to be noticed as somehow lacking.
A learning disability results from deficits in one or more areas of academic function: listening, speaking, basic reading skills, reading comprehension, written language, math calculation and math reasoning (G. Reid Lyon 1994). No mention is made of cognitive ability. To qualify for a diagnosis of Learning Disability in Reading, Written Expression or Math, the requirement is to be tested in those areas and then score at least a standard deviation below the mean (about the 16th percentile) on the corresponding standardized assessment. From extensive surveys of students served on Individual Education Plans and diagnosed with LD, we know that LD is not related to intelligence. The term “learning disability” has existed since 1966 when the U.S. Department of Education defined “Specific Learning Disability” as unexpected learning failure. Children experiencing unexpected learning failure were those who, despite receiving instruction and being of “normal” intelligence, were failing in some aspect of academics. Learning Disability occurs in students of all races, all ages and every economic status. The Individual Education Plan (IEP) will contain goals directly related to academic skills in the area of Math, Reading or Written Expression.
The Ohio Operating Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities specifically excludes cognitive impairment or low intelligence under the category of Specific Learning Disability. (2014). Children with a cognitive impairment have an IQ of below 70 (2nd percentile) on a standardized, individually administered, test of Intelligence in addition to deficits in adaptive behavior (daily living skills, spoken and written communication skills, interpersonal relationships, social communication, fine and gross motor skills). Students who are in the category of Cognitive Disability need a greater intensity of instruction in academic, daily living skills, communication and motor skills.
Reference: Frames of Reference for the Assessment of Learning Disabilities. Brookes Publishing 1994