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Moll, Kristina; Kunze, Sarah; Neuhoff, Nina; Bruder, Jennifer; Schulte-Körne, Gerd (29. July 2014): Specific Learning Disorder: Prevalence and Gender Differences.
In: PLOS ONE 9(7), e103537


Comprehensive models of learning disorders have to consider both isolated learning disorders that affect one learning domain only, as well as comorbidity between learning disorders. However, empirical evidence on comorbidity rates including all three learning disorders as defined by DSM-5 (deficits in reading, writing, and mathematics) is scarce. The current study assessed prevalence rates and gender ratios for isolated as well as comorbid learning disorders in a representative sample of 1633 German speaking children in 3rd and 4th Grade. Prevalence rates were analysed for isolated as well as combined learning disorders and for different deficit criteria, including a criterion for normal performance. Comorbid learning disorders occurred as frequently as isolated learning disorders, even when stricter cutoff criteria were applied. The relative proportion of isolated and combined disorders did not change when including a criterion for normal performance. Reading and spelling deficits differed with respect to their association with arithmetic problems: Deficits in arithmetic cooccurred more often with deficits in spelling than with deficits in reading. In addition, comorbidity rates for arithmetic and reading decreased when applying stricter deficit criteria, but stayed high for arithmetic and spelling irrespective of the chosen deficit criterion. These findings suggest that the processes underlying the relationship between arithmetic and reading might differ from those underlying the relationship between arithmetic and spelling. With respect to gender ratios, more boys than girls showed spelling deficits, while more girls were impaired in arithmetic. No gender differences were observed for isolated reading problems and for the combination of all three learning disorders. Implications of these findings for assessment and intervention of learning disorders are discussed.