Specific Learning Disorder

The Reference Guide to the Diagnostic Criteria of the DSM-5 (Association, 2014) groups disorders related to reading (dyslexia) and mathematics (dyscalculia) under the same group Specific Learning Disorders established that four (4 ) criteria.

  1. Difficulty in learning and in the use of academic skills, evidenced by the presence of at least one of the following symptoms that have persisted for at least 6 months, despite interventions aimed at these difficulties:
  2. Inaccurate or slow and strained word reading (eg, reads individual words aloud incorrectly or slowly and hesitantly, often guesses words, difficulty expressing words well)
  3. Difficulty understanding the meaning of what you read (eg, you can read a text accurately, but you do not understand the sentence, relationships, or the deep meaning of what you read).
  4. Spelling difficulties (eg, can add, omit, or substitute vowels or consonants).
  5. Difficulties with written expression (eg, makes multiple punctuation or grammatical errors in a sentence; misorganizes paragraph; written expression of ideas is not clear).
  6. Difficulty mastering number sense, number data, or calculation (e.g., more understanding of numbers, their magnitude, and their relationships; counts on fingers to add single-digit numbers instead of remembering math as they do his equals; he gets lost in arithmetic and can interchange procedures).
  7. Difficulties with mathematical reasoning (eg, has great difficulty applying mathematical concepts, facts, or operations to solve quantitative problems).
  8. Affected academic skills are substantially and to a measurable degree lower than expected for the chronological age of the individual, and significantly interfere with academic or work performance, or activities of daily living, which are confirmed by standardized measures (tests) individually administered and a comprehensive clinical evaluation. In individuals 17 and older, a documented history of learning disabilities can be substituted for standardized assessment.
  9. Learning difficulties begin at school age, but may not fully manifest until the demands of the affected academic skills exceed the individual’s limited abilities (e.g., on scheduled tests, reading or writing complex and lengthy reports for students). an unpostponable deadline, excessively heavy academic assignments).
  10. Learning difficulties are not better explained by intellectual disabilities, uncorrected visual or hearing disorders, other mental or neurological disorders, psychosocial adversity, lack of command of the language of academic instruction, or inappropriate educational guidelines.

Likewise, it is put as notes that the four criteria diagnosed with a clinical synthesis of the individual’s history (developmental, medical, family, educational) must be met. All academic areas and sub-skills altered must be specified. When more than one area is disturbed, each area will be individually encoded according to the following specifiers. Specify if:

With reading difficulties:

Accuracy in reading words

Reading speed or fluency

Reading comprehension

Likewise, it continues to indicate in the DSM-5 in notes that Dyslexia is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties that is characterized by problems with word recognition accurately or fluently, misspelling and poor ability spelling. If dyslexia is used to specify this particular pattern of difficulties, it is also important to specify any additional difficulties present, such as difficulties with reading comprehension or mathematical reasoning.

With difficulty in written expression:

Spell correction

Grammar and punctuation correction

Clarity or organization of written expression

With mathematical difficulties:

Sense of numbers

Memorization of arithmetic operations

Correct or fluent calculation

Correct mathematical reasoning.

DMS-5 continues, referring in additional notes that Dyscalculia is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of difficulties characterized by problems of processing numerical information, learning arithmetic operations, and correct or fluid calculation. If dyscalculia is used to specify this particular pattern of mathematical difficulties, it is also important to specify any additional difficulties present, such as difficulties with mathematical reasoning or correct word reasoning.

The DSM-5 specifies the current severity:

Mild: Some difficulties with learning skills in one or two academic areas, but mild enough that the individual can compensate or function well when receiving appropriate accommodation or support services, especially during school age.

Moderate: Significant difficulties with learning skills in one or more academic areas, such that the individual is unlikely to become proficient without some periods of intensive and specialized instruction during school age. Some accommodation or support services may be needed at least during part of the school, workplace, or home schedule to perform activities correctly and effectively.

Severe: Severe difficulties in learning skills that affect multiple academic areas, so that the individual is unlikely to learn those skills without constant and intensive individualized and specialized instruction during most of the school years. Even with various adaptation methods and appropriate services at home, at school, or at the workplace, the individual may not be able to perform all activities effectively.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com


Association, A.P. (2014).  Guía de Consulta de los Criterios Diagnósticos del DSM-5.  EE. UU. Ed. Médica Panamericana.

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