100 Learning Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (315.9)

DSM-IV-TR criteria

This category is for disorders in learning that do not meet the criteria for any specific learning disorder. This category might include problems in all three areas (reading, mathematics, or written expression) that alone or simultaneously significantly interfere with academic achievement even though intelligence levels on tests measuring each individual skill is not substantially below that expected given the person’s chronological age, measured intelligence, and appropriate education.

Associated features

  • These features may include deficits in intelligence or genetic influences that make them the way they are. The referece to “reading, writing, and arithmetic” applies to the learning disorders. People are different and have different abilities when it comes to reading, writing, and arithmetic. Some present as having deficits in reading that may slow the pace of the reader and/or bad comprehensive abilities in which the individual may not or have difficulty actually understanding what is being read or being able to explain what one reads.
  • Writing is much easier to replicate and to teach such as movement of a writing utensil of just simply tracing over different words or symbols. There is an eraser on a pencil so if one messes up it is alright, as compared to speech where one might offend somebody.
  • Arithmetic is the most complicated to learn as it involves comprehension of equations, words and even more symbols. Comprehension and replication of how to work out problems is key to learning the processes of some of the operations such as the addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication signs. There is an order of operations in higher level math involving multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. Arithmetic takes the most practice as compared to reading and writing, which are essential components to acquire the ability to effectively communicate in social environments. Repetition of these skills and processes is essential to an individual in this category in order to commit this knowledge to long-term memory.

Child vs. adult presentation

  • There seems to be about the same presentation in children versus adults in overall status. There are more children with these deficits in learning that affect their ability to function on a daily basis in school especially. These are the children that are put in these special classes that get help with their school work and are in a different environment than the majority of the school children. Bullying becomes a major problem when children with learning disabilities and typically learning children are placed in the same environments without supervision. The children just see these differences and are not fully mature enough to express empathy or view other perspectives.
  • Learning disorders usually begin during childhood in their school years, because that is when they are most noticeable. If the disorder is not treated or the child does not respond well to offered treatments, the disorder can be carried into adulthood and cause problems throughout their life.

Gender and cultural differences in presentation

There has been no significant studies that show gender preference for learning disabilities, however some research has shown that certain disorders, such as written expression, have higher rates when elevated levels of tetosterone are present in fetuses. Other disorders show a prevalence for males because of the difference in disruptive behavior between girls and boys. There has also been no significant studies that show that culture plays any role in weather or not an individual has a learning disability. However, minorities usually report a lower socioeconomic status, which could result in a higher prevalence of learning disabilities. There is no research regarding the specifics of learning disorder not otherwise specified. However, research for many learning disorders, specified or not specified, reveal correlations between low socioeconomic status and a increase in learning disabilities. This can be attributed to the lack of funding needed to provide better education, medical care (both physical and mental), poor nutritional states, and environmental factors such as location. For the purpose of identifying cultural and socioeconomic differences, a random sample of the population is tested, as well as the individualized testing that is performed to diagnose the disorder. Equally vital, is the inclusion of a similar socioeconomic and educational status for the participants that are being researched.


Overall, anywhere from 2-10% of children have a learning disorder. However, there is a lack of research involving learning disorders not otherwise specified. There are no estimates on how many children have this disorder.


Learning disorders must be differentiated from normal variations in achievement and distinguished from difficulties due to lack of opportunity, poor teaching, inadequate schooling, or psychosocial, cultural, or other factors. No one is certain of the causes of learning disorders, but they may be linked to genetic factors, environmental factors, or pregnancy complications.

Empirically supported treatments

  • The most common and helpful treatment for all learning disorders is an individualized special education plan. In other words, children are evaluated by a professional, a determination of a learning disorder is made, and a specific plan is constructed for their specific needs.
  • Learning disorders can now be diagnosed in the presence of a sensory deficit or general medical (e.g., neurological) condition as long as the learning deficit exceeds that associated with the other deficit or condition.


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Abnormal Psychology Copyright © 2017 by Lumen Learning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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