Some of the terminology associated with learning disabilities and differences may be unfamiliar to you and your family. To help clarify them, we have listed the more common words and phrases you’ll see on our site.


A child with this disorder has difficulty staying focused and paying attention; controlling behavior, and is often hyperactive. Although ADHD is not considered a learning disability, research indicates that 30-50 percent of children with ADHD also have a specific learning disability, and that the two conditions can interact to make learning extremely challenging.

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

Also known as central auditory processing disorder, this is a condition that adversely affects how sound that travels unimpeded through the ear is processed or interpreted by the brain. Children with APD do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, even when the sounds are loud and clear enough to be heard. They can also find it difficult to tell where sounds are coming from, to make sense of the order of sounds, or to block out competing background noises.


This disability affects a child’s ability to understand numbers, learn math facts, understand math symbols, memorize and organize numbers, tell time, or count.


Dysgraphia affects a child’s handwriting and fine motor skills. Problems may include illegible handwriting, inconsistent spacing, poor spatial planning on paper, poor spelling, difficulty composing writing, and thinking and writing simultaneously.


A specific learning disability that affects reading and related language-based processing skills. The severity can differ in each individual but can affect reading fluency, decoding, reading comprehension, recall, writing, spelling, and sometimes speech and can exist along with other related disorders. Dyslexia is sometimes referred to as a Language-Based Learning Disability.


Although not a learning disability, dyspraxia often exists along with dyslexia, dyscalculia, or ADHD. Children with this disorder have difficulty controlling their muscles, causing problems with movement, coordination, language, and speech.

EmPOWER™ Writing Method

EmPOWER™ is a systematic method for teaching academic writing developed by specifically for students with learning disabilities. With EmPOWER™, students talk themselves through six steps of the writing process and, within each step, use proven strategies to problem-solve.

Executive Functioning Deficits

Although not a learning disability, executive functioning issues, which occur in the brain’s cognitive management systems, are almost always seen in the learning profiles of children with specific learning disabilities and ADHD, and affect a variety of neuropsychological processes like planning, organization, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space.

Executive Skills

At Hillside, we focus on the following executive skills in order to give children the tools they need to succeed both in and out of school: self-regulation, organization & planning, time management, attention/focus, social skills & collaboration, flexibility, self-advocacy and working memory.

Expressive Language

Children’s ability to communicate their wants and needs encompasses verbal and nonverbal communication. Expressive language skills focus on facial expressions, gestures, intentionality, vocabulary, semantics, morphology, and syntax.

Language Processing Disorders

A child with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) has difficulty attaching meaning to sound groups that form words, sentences, and stories. A child with a Language Processing Disorder (LPD) has difficulty processing language. LPD can affect expressive and/or receptive language.


Three types of memory are important to learning. Working memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory are used to process both verbal and non-verbal information. If there are deficits in any of these types of memory, the ability to store and retrieve information required to carry out tasks can be impaired.

Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities

Children with non-verbal learning disabilities (NLD or NLVD) have a significant discrepancy between higher verbal skills and weaker motor, visual-spatial, and social skills. They have trouble interpreting nonverbal cues like facial expressions or body language, and may have poor coordination. 

Project Read®

According to, the Project Read® curriculum is a complete research-based language arts program which includes instructional materials for phonics, reading comprehension, and writing. The curriculum honors diverse learning profiles and provides lessons built on direct concept teaching, targeted multisensory strategies, and higher-level thinking skills.

Receptive Language

Children’s ability to comprehend and understand language. Receptive language skills focus on attention, receptive vocabulary, following directions, and understanding questions.

Visual Perceptual and Visual Motor Deficit

This disorder  affects a child’s ability to understand information that he or she sees, or to draw or copy. Children often miss subtle differences in shapes or printed letters; lose their place frequently; struggle with cutting, holding a pencil too tightly, or hand/eye coordination. This disorder is often seen in children with dysgraphia or a non-verbal learning disability.

Definitions based on information from the Learning Disabilities Association of America and The Pediatric Therapy Network. and