Student Support

What are Learning Disabilities?


What are Learning Disabilities?


Learning disabilities are learning differences which may interfere with the ability to understand, remember, and/or use information. The effects are quite individual, but it is generally accepted that these difficulties create a gap between a person's true capacity and his or her day-to-day performance and productivity.           

These learning differences may include difficulties with:

  • Attention or concentration
  • Memory
  • Visual and/or auditory processing
  • Spatial orientation
  • Language
  • Reasoning
  • Sequencing

These problems with learning are not a result of factors such as educational disadvantage, emotional/psychological disturbance, physical disabilities or limited ability.

Students with learning disabilities experience frustrations with learning that make school difficult even though they have the aptitude to succeed.

Diagnosis and Eligibility for Services

Both Cognitive and Achievement testing must be administered to determine the student's eligibility for services from the Learning Disabilities Program.

If a student has been assessed for a learning disability and has documentation that supplements this, they must set an intake screening appointment with a learning specialist at our program. It should be noted that the student must meet certain eligibility criteria in order to be considered eligible for accommodations and services. This will be determined by the specialist at the intake screening.

The LD program at Santa Monica College also provides an 8-week assessment workshop.

  • Intake Screening - in which the student gives information about current problems, personal/educational history, goals, past difficulties, etc.
  • Measured Achievement - The LD student has a pattern of strengths and weaknesses. This is intended to identify areas of school or employment success, and to better distinguish the LD student from the "low achiever".
  • Ability Level – to determine student's potential for success in general at the community college level.
  • Processing Deficit - to evaluate the student's weaknesses in acquiring, integrating, storing, retrieving and/or expressing information.
  • Aptitude-Achievement discrepancy – to identify areas where the student's achievement is significantly less than that of his peers with the same ability level.

Click on learning disabilities assessment for more information.


Common Characteristics of College Students with a Learning Disability

Following is only a partial list of difficulties that college students with a learning disability often experience. These problems persist even though the student has had adequate academic instruction or remediation.


  • Slow reading rate
  • Poor comprehension and retention
  • Difficulty identifying main ideas
  • Poor mastery of phonics, de-coding difficulties
  • Difficulty integrating new vocabulary

Written Language

  • Difficulty with sentence structure
  • Frequent spelling and/or grammar errors
  • Inability to copy from book or blackboard
  • Poor penmanship

Oral Language Skills

  • Inability to concentrate on and/or comprehend language
  • Difficulty orally expressing ideas which he/she seems to understand
  • Written expression is better than oral
  • Cannot tell a story in proper sequence

Math Skills

  • Incomplete mastery of basic math facts
  • Reverses numbers, confuses symbols
  • Copies problems incorrectly one line to another
  • Difficulty recalling sequence of operational processes
  • Inability to understand or retain abstract concepts
  • Difficulty with word problems

Organization and Study Skills

  • Time management difficulties
  • Slow to start and complete tasks
  • Difficulty following oral and/or written directions
  • Lack of overall organization in notes and essays
  • Short attention span/inability to listen to lectures

Do you suspect that you might have a learning disability? Go through the Learning Disabilities Checklist.

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