Special Education Advocate New Jersey
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Stuff to think about, Stuff to know.

Some Common Special Education Disorders


An ADHD student has trouble staying focused and on task.  S/he has a very short attention span and might seem overly “wiggly.”

This student makes what seems like careless mistakes and his or her teacher may tell you that your child doesn’t pay attention.  Often words like hyperactive and restless are used.  But so are words like lazy and uncaring.  Other times this student will be criticized for only paying attention to what s/he is interested in and disinterested in the “hard” work.




A student with Auditory Processing, or Central Auditory Processing disorder doesn’t have any trouble with his or her ability to hear.  The issue is how the sound in interpreted by the brain.  Even if the sound is loud and clear, the brain has difficulty making sense of the sound, or distinguishing sounds in the foreground and the background.  Additionally, the brain has difficulty filtering out extraneous sound to then concentrate on the words being spoken.

Students with this disorder may seem like they understood the directions, but most likely misunderstood what was being asked.  When asked a question, this student may have heard that a question was asked, but does not understand the details of the question.

Quick discussions, especially in noisy rooms, make for high frustration and misunderstanding.  S/he probably does not enjoy class discussion, nor do they do well in such free-flowing verbal exchange of ideas.



Students with Dyscalculia have low comprehension of numbers, numerology, math functions, and math facts.  Telling time is also very difficult for students with Dyscalculia.  Often, sequential directions become jumbled as keeping order of ideas is very difficult.

Students having Dyscalculia can still do well in other subjects, but the weakness, other than in math class, may be seen in history dates, making timelines, and remembering a sequence of events.



Dyslexia is a language-based processing issue.  This generally affects fluency, decoding, comprehension, recall, writing, and spelling.  Dyselxia is much much more than a reversal of letter direction.  Dylexia can also affect math success, especially with word problems where a student should identify important data vs unimportant information.

Interestingly, if text is read to a Dyslexic student, s/he will often have tremendous insight and understanding.  The issue has more to do more with converting the printed word and creating meaning.  Prefixes and core components of words become confused as Dyslexia affects the student’s phonological awareness.



Students with Dysgraphia struggle with fine motor skills.  This is most often seen in handwriting, but is also seen as having issues with spelling, composing writings, as well as thinking and then writing at the same time.  Often a student with Dysgraphia has great ideas, but cannot commit those ideas to paper.  Notes are a mess, with information written all over the page lacking an obvious sequence of thought.



Students with Executive Functioning Disorder may have issues across a wide range of skills.  These include planning, organizing, paying attention, and remembering details.  Students with this disorder have difficulty managing time and a great deal of trouble multitasking.

These issues are not ADHD, as they disrupt more than just the ability to pay attention and focus.  There are five areas of difficulty where Executive Functioning Disorder are found:  These are – Analyzing a task; Planning the steps needed to complete the task; creating timelines and smaller goals for the task; Making changes to the timeline as the task moves along; and completing the task on time and on budget.