From 10 to 15 percent of all children have a reading disability—that is, they read significantly below their mental ability. A smaller number of these children may be found to have a learning disability. Most professionals tend to use the term reading disability to refer to a significant discrepancy in reading, irrespective of the cause. The term learning disability is used to refer to a discrepancy that is not caused by vision, hearing, or motor handicaps; mental retardation; emotional disturbance; or environmental disadvantage, but rather by a presumed underlying neurological difficulty.
In schools, students who are not mastering reading skills may be referred to either a remedial-reading or a learning-disabilities specialist, both of whom employ a similar procedure. Referred students are given a series of diagnostic tests to determine how their strengths can be enhanced and their weaknesses overcome. A program based on the evaluation is developed for the student and followed by both the specialist and the classroom teacher. At the end of the term, the student will be retested to assess any progress and to update the program. Research has shown that with early and direct attention given to the reading program, greater improvement will occur. Many studies have indicated that remedial-reading instruction can lead to significant gains that are retained after many years.