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Learning disabilities are learning problems with one feature in common: children are learning below their intellectual potential. Given this very broad general definition of learning disabilities, it is no wonder that there are a multitude of different types of problems that children experience in the learning disability domain. There is no agreed upon characterization or classification system for learning disabilities, although generally there are some distinctions typically made to characterize different types of problems which interfere with a child's capacity to learn. These are: production deficits (children with difficulties retrieving information or translating cognition into verbal or non-verbal production); verbal organizational disorders (deficits in understanding or use of language); and non-verbal organization disorders (deficits in Visual-Spatial or non-verbal reasoning).
Others professionals characterize the disorder based on the particular academic area where disability exists, such as reading disabilities, also known as dyslexia. However, within the dyslexia category, reading problems are broken down into auditory-linguistic dyslexia, (characterized by deficits in auditory short term memory, sound blending, sound discrimination, spelling, and sequencing) and Visual-Spatial dyslexia, demonstrating difficulties with visual memory, visual discrimination, visual analysis and synthesis, letter/word reversal, and sequencing of letters.

Learning disabilities can also be classified into a variety of different domains. The two most commonly referred to domains of difficulty include perceptual-organization problems and information processing problems. Perceptual-organizational problems typically involve difficulties in discrimination, identification, association, sequential ordering, visual- perception, visual-spatial reasoning, and analytic thinking to identify part to whole relationships. Information processing difficulties typically reflect problems in one or more kinds of cognitive processing areas, such as short term memory, long term memory, attentional problems, word retrieval, and problems with organization and categorization of verbal and non-verbal material. These different domains and subtypes are further complicated by the fact that they often overlap and co-occur.

The causes of learning disabilities are most often assumed to be a result of some biological limitation or deficit. Biologic deficits or limitations are usually caused either by neurologic accident or event (e.g., complications at birth, anoxia, seizures, lead ingestion, etc.) and often result in hard to identify neurological abnormalities which show themselves only in terms of learning disabilities and occasionally on highly discriminating neuropsychological tests. It is also known that adults with learning disabilities who may have a familial or genetic basis for these difficulties have children who experience learning disabilities at a higher rate than parents who themselves are without learning difficulties. Therefore, it is believed, in the absence of some traumatic event, that genetics play a primary role in the development of learning deficits.