Learning Disabilities and IQ

There seems to be a certain stigma we may encounter in school. People seem to associate poor grades and/or learning disabilities with having a low IQ. In reality, there are so many people who have accomplished such incredible things, even geniuses, who struggled in school and even dropped out because of it. Albert Einstein, for example, had learning disabilities and is still one of the most influential geniuses there is. In actuality, people with learning disabilities have average or above average IQ’s.

A learning disability is not a problem with intelligence or motivation. The brain is simply wired differently in a way that can make receiving and processing information more difficult. This can lead to problems with reading, writing, speaking, mathematics, listening, and concentrating. There are several examples of learning disabilities. Dyslexia involves trouble understanding written words while Dyscalculia is difficulty with math. Also there is dysgraphia, a writing disability in which a person finds it hard to form letter or write within a defined space. These are only a few of the many types of learning disabilities there are. Many people with learning disabilities may do poorly in school as a result to these difficulties and may suffer with lower self-esteem or depression as a result.

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MRI studies have shown that there are brain differences in students with learning disabilities. These studies have found that the brain area involving matching sounds and letters is compromised in children with learning disorders. Also, FMRI studies show that frontal brain regions are important for high fluency levels in reading. More fluent readers have more active frontal regions of the brain than children with learning problems. Children with learning problems often show more activity in other parts of the brain while reading than others, like the parietal and occipital lobes.

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that people with learning disabilities actually have average or above average intelligence. In a study done on 415 adolescents that were learning disabled, results showed that 43 of theses adolescents had an IQ score of 120 or higher. There is usually a large discrepancy between their ability and their achievement. Studies indicate that as many as 33% of individual with learning disabilities are gifted. A study done at Yale University found that in individuals with dyslexia, IQ and reading ability did not correlate. Dyslexic individuals with high IQ often had a slow reading pace. So, as you can see, these studies support the idea that learning disabilities and IQ are separate in nature and one does not tell you something about the other.


The most important information to take away form this is to debunk the myth that learning disabilities of any kind or attentional problems such as ADHD mean you are stupid or lazy by any means. Teachers and students need to be understanding of students who may not process and learn information the way that everyone else does. They also should understand that just because someone is struggling with school doesn’t mean they are stupid or are not trying. Having a learning disability shouldn’t stop anyone from achieving their goals. People with these disabilities have a high capacity for knowledge and should not let certain learning problems interfere. In reality, with hard work, any student with these disabilities can succeed.

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3 thoughts on “Learning Disabilities and IQ

  1. allieboe

    This post really hit me harder than I thought it would, mostly because of my younger brother. He has autism, and it is prevalent while he is at school. He has to have several accommodations that allow him to focus better while in class, and he also leaves the classroom in order to do speech and physical therapy. What this has done, however, is make people think that he isn’t smart, when in reality he is a straight-A student. He just needs certain accommodations to help him get there that other students don’t necessarily need. It hurts me to see other kids who just need a bit of help in school be marked as dumb because they simply ask for help. I hope that eventually learning disabilities, actually all disabilities, will become more accepted at schools by both teachers and students, and that support for those who have disabilities will increase.

    1. rmarcus Post author

      Thank you so much for your comment! I’m really glad that you see this the way I do and you have the perfect example! Its so sad to think that students who receive accommodations and who don’t learn the same way others do are so often labelled as unintelligent. The reality is that these kids are so smart and can achieve so much! Thank you for sharing!

  2. amichaud

    This was such a great read and so applicable to someone like myself who has a very hard time with tests and assignments that are catered to the “typical student”. It’s incredibly frustrating to put so much work into an assignment only to receive a grade that doesn’t accurately reflect the time and effort that I put into the assignment. Although there are many stigmas associated with learning disabilities I feel as though there will be more accommodations in the near future that will break the stigmas, making it easier for students to focus and succeed in school. This was such a great read, thanks for posting!

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