MET:Educational Technology Funding for Students with Learning Disabilities

From UBC Wiki

Learning Disability the “invisible handicap”


Can you tell who has a learning disability in this picture? No? Someone with a learning disability looks exactly like their typical developing peers, as there are no physical signs. It is estimated that six to ten percent of children in school have a learning disability. [1].

A learning disability (LD) is life long and affects how a person understands, processes and uses information. It also affects their ability to learn regardless of their average to above average intelligence; which can impact their academics, social skills and employment. Learning disabilities are quite complex as they can affect each person differently. They are caused by specific neurological differences in the brain that affects a person’s ability to store, process, receive and/or communicate information [2]. It can be hereditary, but is not directly related to economic disadvantage or cultural differences[3]. It is important for someone with a learning disability to understand that having a learning disability does not mean they are not intelligent. It just means that they learn differently from their average developing peer. They need to find other ways to processes sensory information, as they see, hear, and understand things differently. This is why it is extremely important to identify early on so that someone with a learning disability can get the support and assistance they need to succeed in their life long endeavours.



Possible characteristics or indicators of a learning disability in children include[4]:

  • Difficulty learning to read, spell, write, or do math
  • Difficulty with reading but good conversationalist
  • Difficulty with math but a very good reader
  • Difficulty following written or verbal instructions
  • Difficulty remembering information
  • Difficulty putting words on paper or copying from the board
  • Difficulty putting ideas and numbers in order
  • Difficulty with making or keeping friends
  • Difficulty organizing and keeping track of time, activities, responsibilities and/or belongings
  • Difficulty interpreting body language and facial expressions
  • Difficulty with changes in daily routine
  • Difficulty with co-ordination

Possible characteristics or indicators of a learning disability in adults include[5]:

  • Difficulty putting thoughts on paper but possess excellent verbal skills
  • Difficulty with reading, writing, spelling, but possess good mechanical abilities
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships or making friends
  • Difficulty making friends and maintaining relationships
  • Difficulty following written or verbal instruction but learns well when shown
  • Difficulty organizing tasks, belonging, activities, responsibilities
  • Difficulty keeping track of time; often arrives late or unusually early for appointments
  • Difficulty finding and keeping employment
  • Often feels anxious, tense, and / or depressed
  • Often lack confidence

Not every person has the exact same type of Learning disability. Some of the characteristics above may or may not be prevalent in someone with a learning disability, and the severity can also range from mild to severe depending on the person. Below is a chart taken from the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada[6] describing the types of learning disabilities:

Type of LDs Area of Difficulty Symptoms include trouble with: Example:
Dyslexia Processing language Reading, writing, and spelling Letters and words may be written or pronounced inaccurately
Dyscalculia Math skills and concepts Computation, remembering math facts, concepts of time, money, grasping math concepts, etc Difficulty learning to count by 2s, 3s, 4s
Dysgraphia Written expression Handwriting, spelling, expressing ideas on paper Illegible handwriting, difficulty organizing ideas, getting thoughts on paper
Dyspraxia Fine motor skills Coordination, manual dexterity Trouble with scissors, buttons, drawing, writing
Information Processing Disorders
Auditory Processing Disorder Interpreting auditory information Language Development, reading Difficulty anticipating how a speaker will end a sentence.
Visual Processing Disorder Interpreting visual information Reading, writing and math Difficulty distinguishing letters like “h” and “n”

As learning disabilities are quite complex, some people have more than one type and the severity can range from mild to severe depending on the person. Approximately 80% of people with a learning disability have dyslexia[7]. A third of these individuals also suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which causes them to struggle when performing tasks that require concentration[8]. Without the proper support, the learning of basic skills (reading, writing, comprehension, Math skills etc.) are much more difficult for a student with a learning disability. The lack of academic success tends to result in students dropping out of school. In high-school, the drop-out rate for students with disabilities is 14.2%, which is high when compared to the 9.7% rate for those without a disability[9].


Due to the fact that students with learning disabilities appear no different than their typically developing peers in a classroom environment, it is not uncommon for children and adults to go undiagnosed. When a child or adult is struggling with academic and social situations, and they seem to exhibit a number of the characteristics listed above, it is imperative that they get assessed, as there is a good chance they may have a learning disability. When a learning disability is identified, there are a number of support options that can be implemented to allow the individual to achieve their academic and personal goals. This is very important as many children and adults struggle to understand why they are not successful in their academic, social, or career-oriented pursuits. Identification of a learning disability allows these individuals to realize that it isn't due to a lack of intelligence, or their desire to succeed, but because they learn differently. With the proper accommodations, self-advocacy skills and a new strategy on how to learn they should be able to keep up to their typically developing peers.

Some schools use a new process called Response to Intervention (RTI) to identify children with learning disabilities[10]. The students who are identified as having a literacy level that is below that of their peers are provided with auxiliary reading exercises. If this does not improve a student’s literacy skills it is possible that they may have dyslexia or a learning disability.

For children and adults who do not go through the RTI process but struggle with any of the characteristics listed above, a formal diagnosis is needed. A psycho-educational assessment is conducted by a trained psychologist, an adult or child version is completed depending on the individual. Evaluation typically includes[11]:

  • intelligence
  • language skills
  • memory
  • verbal and visual learning
  • attention / concentration
  • eye - hand coordination for paper - and - pencil tasks
  • planning ability
  • reflective / impulsive response style
  • reading (phonetic skills, sight vocabulary, reading comprehension)
  • spelling
  • writing
  • mathematics (basic numerical operations, mathematical reasoning)
  • academic fluency (speed of reading, writing, calculating)
  • listening comprehension
  • oral expressive skills
  • intelligence, academic achievement, language skills, mathematical testing

Although learning disabilities are lifelong, it is important to keep an individual’s psycho-educational assessment up to date. Post-secondary institutions require that the psychological assessment be conducted in the last four years, or that an adult version has been completed. This is due to the fact that the severity of the learning disability can change over time.

Most funding for assistive technology will require documentation from a psychologist stating the specific types of technologies needed. As such, it is extremely important to make sure the psychologist lists as many types of technologies as possible. Experimentation may be needed to learn which technologies work best for each individual. Most students with learning disabilities will use similar technologies, but just as learning disabilities differ from person to person, the technologies they use can also be different.

Funding for Assessments and Technology

For families who want a psycho-educational assessment, technology and/or tutors for their child, one option is to cover the cost of the accommodations themselves. However, the cost of getting a psycho-educational assessment, along with any assistive technologies and tutoring can be quite costly. For the majority of families, the finances involved in helping their child are beyond their means. In these instances, there are a number of grants available to help cover the cost of assessments and technology. In Canada, the funding options are available for both early and post-secondary education for students with learning disabilities.

Early Education funding

The Ministry of Education in Canada [12] is responsible for funding elementary and secondary schools operated by both public and Catholic English and French boards. There are two grants in particular that assist students with learning disabilities so that they receive the support they need throughout their education. The main grant is the Special Education Grant (SEG) which provides additional funding for students who need special programs, services and equipment. Another grant that can also help some students with learning disabilities is the Special Education Per-Pupil Amount (SEPPA) which supports students with exceptional high needs who require more than two full-time staff to address health and safety needs. Depending on where you live in Canada, there are sometimes private grants available through local businesses.

Post-secondary Funding

For students who decide to continue their education at a post-secondary institution, there are a number of grants available, but they can vary depending on institution and the province or territory.

Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Persons with Permanent Disabilities (CSG-PDSE)

The Canadian Federal Government created CSG-PDSE to help support the costs of accommodations and/or assistive technology needed by students with permanent disabilities to attend post-secondary institutions. Students who are eligible for this grant receive up to $8,000.00 a year.

To be eligible for this grant, students must provide proof of disability (i.e. psycho-educational assessment) from a registered psychologist. If a student has not been assessed for a learning disability or needs an updated psycho-educational assessment, the CSG-PDSE grant will reimburse 75% of the cost. A student also must qualify for student loans to be eligible for this grant. The amount the student qualifies for doesn't matter, as long as they qualify. Students who qualify for $1, will receive the same amount in grants as someone who qualified for much more. Therefore, it is worthwhile to apply for a student loan even if you do not think you will be accepted.

The CSG-PDSE grant also requires documentation of the types of assistive technology and services you need from the registered psychologist. In addition, they require quotes of the cost of the technology from two businesses that sell the equipment as well as quotes for any costs required for services such as tutoring; including hourly rates, number of hours a week and for which classes. Students will be required to provide a copy of any receipts to qualify for reimbursement.

Each province and territory require slightly different form to fill out, below are links to each form:

Canada Student Grant for Persons with Permanent Disabilities

The Canada Student Grant for Persons with Permanent Disabilities requires the same eligibility as the CSG-PDSE grant. Students must provide proof of a learning disability and be eligible for student loans. Students who qualify for this grant receive $2,000.00 each year. This Federally funded grant is provided to assist tuition, books, accommodations and/or any travel expenses. When students fill out the CSG-PDSE grant form, this grant is automatically sent to the student.

Provinces and Territories that do not participate in the above grants

  • The Northwest Territories has opted out of both the CSG-PDS grant and the Canada Student Grant for Persons with Permanent Disabilities. Instead they offer the NWT Study Grant for Students with Permanent Disabilities which provides up to $8,000.00 for any costs related to assistive technology and/or services. The form students must fill out can be found on the Northwest Territories website
  • Nunavut has also opted out of both the CSG-PDS grant and the Canada student Grant for Persons with Permanent Disabilities. Unfortunately they do not appear to have an equivalent grant for students with learning disabilities.
  • The final province and territory to opt out of the two federal grants is Quebec.

Grants for students who do not qualify for CSG-PDSE or Canada Student Grant for Persons with Permanent Disabilities

Both Nova Scotia and Alberta recognize that not all individuals qualify for student loans but are recognized as students with permanent disabilities. Nova Scotia has a Post-Secondary Disability Services – Goods and Services grant which provides funding for services such as tutoring and assistive technology. Alberta’s grant is called Alberta Grant for Students with Permanent Disabilities, where they provide up to $3,000.00 per year for students.

Assistive Technology

There are a number of assistive technologies that work extremely well for students with a variety of learning disabilities. Below is a list of common technologies that can be purchased through the grants discussed above.

  • Concept Maps:

Concept –maps allow students to develop and prepare drafts for assignments and papers, enabling them to brainstorm and create visual outlines. Common technologies are Inspiration and DraftBuilder.

  • Note Taking

Livescribe Smartpen – this technology helps students who struggle with taking notes as the pen records what the teacher is saying and links it to the notes they write.

  • Reading Software

There are many types of reading software which converts digital text into audio and reads the text to the student as they follow along. The most common software used is Kurzweil.

  • Speech Recognition Software

Speech recognition software allows students to orally complete tasks such as assignments and exams as it converts their words into text. Common speech recognition software is Dragon Naturally Speaking.

  • Word Processor

The combination of a spelling and grammatical checker, along with the ability to type instead of writing gives word processors the ability to positively impact academic performance. Common word processors are Microsoft Word for Windows and Mac.

  • Laptops

The foundation for the assistive technology. If a student has to choose between a mainframe and a laptop it is important for them to get a laptop as they are portable and can be taken anywhere with the student.

There are a wide range of technologies available, many of which were not developed specifically for students with learning disabilities, although in some instances they work just as well if not better. The aforementioned list is just to give readers a sense of where to start looking when researching assistive technologies for individuals with learning disabilities.

With the right support and guidance, individuals with learning disabilities can accomplish anything. {{#ev:youtube|tp_8FVQ9HZg}}

Related Links

Additional Funding Links for Children

Child Disability Benefit (CDB) Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD)

  • If you are looking for funding you should apply for both of these grants. However it is important to note that not all children with learning disabilities will qualify.

Funding Link for Post-Secondary Students

Financial Assistance by Provence

Information About Grants

Alberta Students with Permanent Disabilities

Manitoba Financial assistance for students with Disabilities

Nova Scotia Grants Information and Guidelines

Nova Scotia Post-Secondary Grants

Nova Scotia Goods & Services

Yukon Loans

Ontario Student Assistance Program

Prince Edward Island Grants

Ministry of Education Websites in Canada


British Columbia


New Brunswick


Nova Scotia

Northwest Territories



Prince Edward Island




Other links Related to Learning Disabilities

Learning Disabilities Association of Canada YouTube Page

National Centre for Learning Disabilities

National Centre for Learning Disabilities YouTube Page

National Centre on Response to Intervention


  1. Ontario ministry of Education. (2011). What is a learning disability? Retrieved from
  2. Help (2011). Learning disabilities in children: Learning disability symptoms, types, and testing. Retrieved from;Learning Disabilities Association of Canada. (2011). ldac acta: Learning disabilities association of Canada. Retrieved from
  3. Learning Disabilities Association of Canada. (2011). ldac acta: Learning disabilities association of Canada. Retrieved from
  4. The Learning Disabilities Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. (2011). General LD infromation. Retrieved from
  5. The Learning Disabilities Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. (2011). General LD infromation. Retrieved from
  6. Learning Disabilities Association of Canada.(2011). What you should know about LDs. Retrieved from\
  7. Learning Disabilities Association of New Brunswick (2007). The commission on post-secondary education in New Brunswick: Increasing opportunities. Retrieved from
  8. Learning Disabilities Association of Canada. (2011). ldac acta: Learning disabilities association of Canada. Retrieved from
  9. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. (2011). Disability in Canada: A 2006 Profile. Retrieved from
  10. The Learning Disabilities Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. (2011). ldanl: The learning disabilities association of Newfoundland and Labrador. Retrieved from
  11. Psych-Ed Assessment Services. (2011). Retrieved from
  12. Ontario ministry of Education. (2011). Funding for Special Education. Retrieved from

Classroom [Image]. Retrieved June 24, 2011 from