How to Get Social Security Disability Benefits for a Specific Learning Disability


Living with a learning disability can be difficult. Adults with specific learning disorders may find it difficult to get or to maintain gainful employment that allows them to support their families. And children with a severe learning disability may find it difficult to find success inside the classroom or with extracurricular activities. In either situation the affects of the learning disorder can overwhelm both the individual and the family – financially and emotionally.


Fortunately it is possible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if your specific learning disorder makes it difficult to keep a job or prevents a child from succeeding at school. Children with disabilities are eligible for SSI but not SSDI benefits. These benefits can provide financial help and medical coverage.


This article explains how a specific learning disability is diagnosed and how you or your child can qualify for disability benefits based on a severe learning disorder. If you have any questions about applying for Social Security disability in Virginia or proving your SSD claim at a disability hearing, contact SSD lawyer Richmond and Newport News Social Security attorney Corey Pollard for a free consultation.


Diagnosing Specific Learning Disability


A physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist may diagnose specific learning disorder if an adult or child has a persistent problem in learning and using academic skills as quickly or as well as other persons their age. The diagnosis is made after evaluating:


  • Family history. The examiner will want to know if any other family members have been diagnosed with a specific learning disorder or intellectual disability.
  • Medical history.
  • Developmental history. The examiner will ask you or a family member when you met certain developmental milestones.
  • Educational history. The examiner will review whether you repeated any grades and how you performed in school.
  • When you or a family member first noticed the learning problem and what you were trying to do at the time it was noticed.
  • The impact the learning problem has had on your academic, occupational, or social functioning.
  • Observations of you in a clinical setting while reading, writing, or solving mathematical problems.
  • Your school reports.
  • Results from standardized educational and neuropsychological testing, which is usually given in school.


You, your child, or your loved one will receive a specific learning disorder diagnosis if you meet the below criteria:


1. Difficulty acquiring, learning, and using academic skills as shown by the presence of at least one of the following symptoms that have persisted for at least 6 months despite therapy, counseling, and other interventions targeting those difficulties:


  • Trouble reading or sounding out words
  • Difficulty understanding and comprehending what was just read
  • Difficulty spelling words correctly
  • Difficulty expressing self verbally
  • Difficulty mastering numbers and calculations, such as simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
  • Difficulty with mathematical reasoning.


2. The affected academic skills are below those expected based on your age and cause interference with occupational or academic performance, or with activities of daily living. If a person is 17 years of age or older then a documented history of learning difficulties may be used to make the diagnosis instead of a standardized assessment. Test scores, however, are valuable in determining whether a person meets this criteria.


3. The learning difficulties began during childhood and school-age years but did not become fully known until the demands on the skills affected by the learning disorder exceeded the person’s abilities. For example many learning disorders are not diagnosed until the affected skills are tested.


4. An intellectual disability, visual problem, auditory problem, or other mental or neurological disorder that would explain the learning difficulties is not present.


Different Types of Learning Disorders


When diagnosing a patient the medical provider should specify which academic domains and skills are impaired. Below are some of the specific learning disorders that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate:


  • Impairment in word reading accuracy
  • Impairment in reading comprehension
  • Impairment in reading fluency
  • Impairment in organization of written expression
  • Impairment in spelling accuracy
  • Impairment in memorization of arithmetic facts
  • Impairment in accurate mathematical calculation


A mild learning disorder is one where a person has some difficulties in learning skills in one or two academic domains but the difficulties are mild enough that the person is able to compensate or function well with the appropriate accommodations.


A person with a moderate learning disorder has marked difficulties in one or more academic domains that are severe enough to prevent the person from becoming proficient without intensive and specialized training during the school-age years. Special accommodations are necessary at least part of the day at school, at work, or at home to finish activities efficiently.


A person with a severe learning disorder will experience difficulties in several academic domains and be unable to learn those skills without ongoing training and teaching during the school-age years. Even with the appropriate accommodations at school, work, or home, a person with severe learning disabilities may be unable to complete all activities efficiently.


Social Security Disability Benefits for a Learning Disorder


An adult may qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits if he or she can prove that a specific learning disorder prevents them from working full-time without significant accommodations. If the SSA determines that you will require extensive supervision on the job, that you’re incapable of performing work that is simple, repetitive, or requires reasoning, or that your disability makes you unable to maintain time, attendance, persistence, and pace, then you may qualify for benefits.


A child may be found disabled if he or she meets Listing 112.11 of the Social Security’s Listing of Impairments, entitled Neurodevelopmental Disorders, or if he or she has marked limitation in at least two of the functional domains or extreme limitation in at least one of the functional domains.


Listing 112.11 is met if the child has medical documentation of the following:


  • Frequent distractibility, difficulty paying attention, and difficulty staying organized;
  • Hyperactive and impulsive behavior, such as difficulty staying seated in class or talking excessively;
  • Significant difficulties acquiring, learning, and using academic skills;
  • Recurrent motor movement or vocalization




  • Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas involving mental functioning: understanding, remembering, or applying information; interacting with others; maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or, adapting to changes and taking care of oneself (maintaining personal hygiene, controlling emotions).


If a child meets the second part of the listing then he or she can be found disabled based on meeting the requirements using the functional domains.


Thinking about applying for disability benefits for your child who has a learning disorder? We want to help. Disability attorney and Virginia child’s disability attorney Corey Pollard helps disabled adults and children qualify for Social Security benefits in Virginia. And there’s no fee unless you or your loved one gets approved. Call 804-251-1620.