Specific Learning Disability and SLD/Dyslexia


IDEA (2004) Definition of Specific Learning Disability (SLD) 

Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. [34 CFR Section 300.8 (c)(10)]

Eight Academic Domains of SLD

  • Oral Expression
  • Listening Comprehension
  • Written Expression
  • Basic Reading Skills
  • Reading Fluency Skills
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Mathematics Calculation
  • Mathematics Problem Solving

CSDE Working Definition of SLD/Dyslexia*

Dyslexia is included in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) as a specific learning disability (SLD). Dyslexia impacts reading, specifically decoding and accurate and/or fluent word recognition and spelling. Dyslexia is neurobiological in origin and is unexpected and/or inconsistent with a student’s other abilities often despite the provision of appropriate instruction. Dyslexia usually results from a significant deficit in phonological processing (i.e., a persistent difficulty in the awareness of and ability to manipulate the individual sounds of spoken language).

Typically, students with dyslexia have strengths in areas such as reasoning, critical thinking, concept formation, problem solving, vocabulary, listening comprehension, and social communication (e.g., conversation). Early identification and appropriate instruction targeting the underlying phonological, word reading, and spelling processing deficits that characterize dyslexia may minimize its educational impact.

Essential Clarifications

  • Dyslexia is not primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disability; an intellectual disability; emotional disability; a lack of appropriate instruction; cultural factors; environmental or economic disadvantage; or limited English proficiency.
  • Early identification of the characteristics of dyslexia is critical, leading to focused, evidence-based interventions, accommodations, self-awareness, self-empowerment, and school and life success.
  • Without targeted, systematic and explicit instruction/interventions along with accommodations (e.g., accessible educational materials in content area subjects), students with dyslexia may have:
    • reduced reading experiences that may impact the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge,
    • difficulty with written expression, and/or
    • difficulty learning a second language.
  • Students with dyslexia may demonstrate additional behavioral and/or emotional reactions to their difficulty with learning to read.
  • Effective, research-based interventions for phonemic awareness and/or phonics may bring some students with dyslexia to grade expectations in those areas, but the students may still have lingering difficulties in reading fluency, spelling, and/or written expression, which may require intervention.

*This working definition was developed by the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) with input from an external stakeholder workgroup and was based on a review of applicable literature, the IDEA, and current definitions in use by other states, organizations and legislation.

Professional Learning Opportunities