Identifying Learning Disabilities

Identifying Learning Disabilities

source: Learning Disabilities Association of America

Learning disabilities are due to genetic and/or neurobiological factors that alter brain functioning in a manner that affects one or more cognitive processes related to learning. These processing problems can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing, and/or math.  They can also interfere with higher-level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short-term memory, and attention.  It is important to realize that learning disabilities can affect an individual’s life beyond academics and can impact relationships with family, friends, and in the workplace.

Since difficulties with reading, writing, and/or math are recognizable problems during the school years, the signs and symptoms of learning disabilities are most often diagnosed during that time.  However, some individuals do not receive an evaluation until they are in post-secondary education or adults in the workforce.  Other individuals with learning disabilities may never receive an evaluation and go through life, never knowing why they have difficulties with academics and why they may be having problems in their jobs or in relationships with family and friends.

Learning disabilities should not be confused with learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps; of intellectual disability; emotional disturbance; or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantages.

Generally speaking, people with learning disabilities are of average or above-average intelligence. There often appears to be a gap between the individual’s potential and actual achievement. This is why learning disabilities are referred to as “hidden disabilities”: the person looks perfectly “normal” and seems to be a very bright and intelligent person, yet may be unable to demonstrate the skill level expected from someone of a similar age.

A learning disability cannot be cured or fixed; it is a lifelong challenge. However, with appropriate support and intervention, people with learning disabilities can achieve success in school, at work, in relationships, and in the community.

In Federal law, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the term is “specific learning disability,” one of 13 categories of disability under that law.

“Learning Disabilities” is an “umbrella” term describing a number of other, more specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and dysgraphia. Find the signs and symptoms of each, plus strategies to help below.

Types of Learning Disabilities


A specific learning disability that affects a person’s ability to understand numbers and learn math facts.


A specific learning disability that affects a person’s handwriting ability and fine motor skills.


A specific learning disability that affects reading and related language-based processing skills.

Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities

Has trouble interpreting nonverbal cues like facial expressions or body language and may have poor coordination.

Oral / Written Language Disorder and Specific Reading Comprehension Deficit

Learning disabilities that affect an individual’s understanding of what they read or of spoken language. The ability to express one’s self with oral language may also be impacted.
Would you like to know how we work with students with learning differences in their transition to college? Let’s chat!
The Weil College Advising Team
Activities during Lockdown (part 2)

Activities during Lockdown (part 2)

()Their lives may be sooooooooo over but there are plenty of things teens can do to keep themselves occupied, and even some that might allow their parents to spend precious time with them (which is a bonus, as we all know teenagers don’t want to hang out with their mom and dad!) Read on for some ideas I found amongst parents of teens and tweens.

Take an online photography course: Now is the time to learn a new skill, and surprisingly there are tons of photography courses online. Ideally, they’ll need a DSLR camera – luckily that’s one thing that hasn’t sold out on Amazon – but there are also courses in smartphone photography that focus on capturing interesting angles and concepts, and using natural light.

Learn to touch type: Have you seen how kids type? That two-finger jab thing they do on the keyboard (or worse still, the iPad stabbing that makes me want to layer 72 screen protectors on their devices). Learning to touch type will speed up their essay work too, so they’ll stop claiming carpal tunnel syndrome as an excuse to avoid their English and History homework. Disclaimer: this may not improve the quality of their writing… 

Enrol in Stage School: It might sound strange but lockdown is the perfect time to start acting classes. Stage Academy is an established performing arts school, like everyone else has had to temporarily stop live classes. But they’ve put together online versions that are so good they actually stand alone as a way of taking drama lessons on an ongoing basis. 

Build a website: Why not learn to code? Code Academy offers free coding classes online. You could build your first e-commerce site, or start a blog!

Create an Anime: If your teenager is into graphic design,  Anime is a good way to use time and learn a new skill.

Start a podcast: If your teenager fancies having a YouTube channel but is too shy to put themself out there a podcast might be a good alternative. It’s super easy to get started, and podcasting is really taking off right now. There are lots of podcast hosting platforms, and most of them have really good idiot guides to explain how to do it. allows you to download a pretty comprehensive guide with no obligation to sign up. Only once you have a recording you want to put on the podcasting apps do you need to pay for an account. If you’ve never listened to a podcast, here’s mine – Teenage Kicks, a mental health podcast aimed at teens and their parents.

Cook dinner: I’ve seen lots of parents say their teenagers are taking it in turns to cook dinner, and now is a perfect time. I’m such a control freak in the kitchen that I’ve never handed that task over to my kids, but they need to learn to cook more than beans before they leave home. I’m going to start easy with baked potatoes and build up my nerve from there! Similarly, kids need to know how to budget and plan food for the week, so hand in hand with cooking, I’m going to ask mine to make a meal plan together. This will either result in a huge row, or us eating ravioli for an entire week.

Wash the car: It can be a fun (and lucrative) idea!

Learn car maintenance: change the oil and water, and change a tire.

We are full of ideas for teens. Contact us for more!

The Weil College Advising Team

Winter Break for College Students

Winter Break for College Students

Exams are over! You want to leave school completely behind you. Relax, play with your pets, sleep in…but after a few days, consider activities that will help you in the long run (guaranteed)

  • Writing a thank you letter to a college professor who was particularly supportive or inspiring
  • Asking a professor if he/she is willing to write an academic letter of recommendation over the break
  • Selecting items of particular achievement to add to a professional portfolio
  • Updating your resume/cover letter/Linkedin profile to reflect new skills or training
  • Reviewing your graduating plan – are you on track to graduate?
  • Reflecting on your performance to identify areas of desired or needed improvement
  • Thinking ahead to the summer – internship applications? Taking summer courses?
  • Thanking your parents (and friends/other family members) for emotionally and financially supporting your academic Goals!

Have a wonderful winter break!


Weil College Advising, LLC

Latest questions from parents

Latest questions from parents

What is the CSS Profile, and why do colleges need it in addition to FAFSA?

The CSS Profile is an online application that collects information used by nearly 400 colleges and scholarship programs to award non-federal aid. (For federal aid, you must complete the FAFSA, available Oct. 1 at Some colleges may require the CSS Profile from both biological/adoptive parents in cases of divorce or separation. 

Why do some colleges require two forms? FAFSA will provide information based on the latest tax returns filed by the family. The CSS offers valuable information to the financial aid office to accurately evaluate the family’s financial information. Expenses like trips, home renovations, cars, second homes, and the projected expenses for the upcoming year will all be recorded in the CSS profile. Look up the college’s deadline to present financial aid information (on the website’s financial aid page). The CSS profile “lives” in the College Board website.

How many colleges would you recommend on a college list?

My students usually apply to 9 or 10 colleges. I say “usually” because some students apply to uber-competitive programs (Conservatories, for example), and their list will be longer. It is very important that the college list is:

  1. Balanced! We want reaches (20-25% chance), targets (50%), and likelies (70-75%) for that student. Note that this is not based on the admission rate but rather on the student we are working with.
  2. A good fit for the student. Every college on that list should be a place where the student will be happy and thrive academically and socially. It should be a financial fit too…
  3. Based on the criteria of the student and the family. Some of the variables to consider are location, size, type of curriculum, access to professors, special programs, research opportunities, alumni network, and about 50 other variables!

How do I decide on a college if I have never been able to visit?

Colleges had an online presence pre-COVID. However, since March of 2020, colleges have had to find ways to explain (and differentiate!) themselves to prospective students. Hence, we now have various videos, interactive sessions, and recordings from students to “visit” almost any college campus online. When I work with students on their college list, I teach them to “read between the lines” on these websites to understand the colleges’ values and mission. For example: how are the academic programs structured, are majors interdisciplinary? Do students seem to study across different schools? Are volunteering and social action a big part of student life? What are the demographics like on campus? Besides, we look at blogs and testimonials from current students or recent graduates and often make connections with those who have first-hand experience with the college. They are the best source of information!

More questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil


The New Priority: Independent Learning

The New Priority: Independent Learning

Adapted from Bright Knowledge

The last six months have changed every aspect of life. While these shifts aren’t forever, they are central to our lives now. Education has had to adapt especially quickly and we understand that student stress levels are at an all-time high.

Recent studies show that for students to succeed in this new environment they need two things: continuity and independent study skills. 

What is independent learning?

Independent learning is when an individual is able to think, act, and pursue their own studies autonomously, without the same levels of support you receive from a teacher at school.

In other words, you need to be able to do your own research instead of expecting a teacher to give you all the background material you might need.

To become a good independent learner you need to be:

  • Motivated
  • Resilient, to overcome challenges
  • An excellent time manager
Why is independent learning important?
Independent learning is not just important to become a good student. The skills you gain are transferrable to most jobs. These include:
  • Motivation
  • Independence
  • Initiative
  • Time management
  • Organization and multi-tasking
  • Strong reading and writing skills
How can I become an independent learner?
  • Read actively: You will need to be an active reader, paying close attention to the words you are reading and their meaning.
  • Skim read: Speed read or skim material before reading it in detail and then summarising the text in your notes.
  • Go solo: Practice working on your own for long periods of time without seeking the help of an adult.
  • Different sources: When doing research, try to draw from a variety of different sources.
  • Be persistent: If a task is challenging, don’t give up. Keep at it until you understand what you need to do.
  • Seek help where necessary: Asking for support and advice is an important part of independent learning. Unlike school, you are unlikely to be spoon-fed all the information you need at work or at university. If you need help, ask for it!
  • Discussions: If you want to expand an argument but are stuck for ideas, get a debate going with friends or peers. This could help you think about an element you hadn’t considered before.
  • Set goals: A good way to keep your motivation up is to think about what you want to get out of your work and remind yourself next time you’re flagging.
  • Effective time management: In work or uni studies, you’re more than likely to have several pieces of work to juggle at any one time. Break each project down into the relevant tasks, work out how long you will need to spend on each part, then allocate time in your diary in order or priority.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC

Success in Life

Success in Life

Success in life is more than just graduating from the “best” college.  However, finding the college that’s the best fit for you can help facilitate that success.  Your best fit college may not be the school ranked #1 by US News, or the school your parents went to, or the school your best friend is applying to – you get the idea.  So how do you find a college that will help you pave the path to success?   

Jullien Gordon has some advice on that topic in this TEDxTalk.  Jullien talks about the four types of capital that you need to develop in order to achieve success  

  1. Personal capital 
  2. Intellectual capital 
  3. Social capital 
  4. Financial capital 

Understanding these four types of capital can help you choose a college that will open doors for your future.     

Take Action 

As Jullien explains, you must be able to answer the question “Why do I want to go to college?”.  To answer that question, you need to know yourself.  Use the summer to consider what these four types of capital mean to you and why you want to go to college.  An answer to this question will help you define the best fit college for you.  

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC