Exploring the ICD-10 Code for Specific Reading Disorder

As a healthcare professional, you have a lot of responsibilities. Whether you’re a general practitioner, a specialist, or someone serving in a complementary role, you work with like-minded colleagues to diagnose and treat many different conditions among your clients. Some might be physical, and others might be mental. One thing tens of thousands of these conditions have in common is ICD-10 codes listing the specific condition. 

You can use these codes to help generate treatment notes for your clients and their other carers, and AI can help you expedite the creation of notes and documents when you know the correct code. Specific reading disorder is one condition you might treat, and there are ICD-10 codes for it and several closely related conditions that you should know about.

About ICD-10 Codes

The Tenth Revision of the International Classification of Diseases is a system that healthcare professionals use for the coding and classification of symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment procedures. Primarily used for claims processing, this system was originally developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). The United States version was further developed by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to better match the nation’s existing healthcare systems.

The ICD-10 system is important because it gives healthcare professionals common ground when they monitor, record, and report various diseases. Data sharing and comparison are now possible at many levels, and this can happen as locally as between two hospitals or as broadly as between two countries. Data can even be compared over different periods of time. The coding and classification system makes it easier to collect and store data, leading to higher levels of analysis. Decision-makers are guided by hard evidence when making objective choices regarding policies, practices, and resource allocation.

If you’re wondering who uses the ICD-10 system, there are many different answers. Healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and technicians, use the codes, and so do psychologists, psychiatrists, specialists, and researchers. The system is also utilized by policymakers, technology professionals, organizations, and insurance providers. Clients might rely on these codes to find more information about their conditions. In addition, the ICD is available in over 40 languages and used in over 110 countries to share information about mortality rates and causes.

Specific Reading Disorder

Specific learning disorders fall under the category of neurodevelopmental disorders. These are often diagnosed when children are in their earliest years of schooling. However, some cases aren’t recognized until an individual is an adult. Specific learning disorders typically center on a persistent impairment involving reading, math, or written expression. In some cases, two or even all three areas might be impacted.

Individuals with these kinds of learning disabilities might struggle with calculations, grammar, spelling, and accurately reading words. This can result in specific math, science, history, and social studies issues. They can even impact daily life activities and interactions in social settings. A specific learning disorder can be categorized into different levels, including mild, moderate, or severe. 

Treatment and support for a person with this condition should align with how serious the issue is. Learning disorders that go unmanaged or unrecognized can lead to complications outside academics, as a person might suffer excess stress and reduced mental health. There can be a high risk of dropping out of school, underemployment, and unemployment.

The terminology used for specific learning disorders is sometimes debated. In some contexts, “dyslexia” is used interchangeably with the term “learning disability,” but this might not always be accurate. Also, there is some stigma surrounding the term. One phrase growing in popularity is “learning difference” because it doesn’t label children as “disordered.” Advocates of using the term “learning differences” feel that it highlights that some people simply learn differently rather than having a disorder. One obstacle to changing the language is the use if the phrase “learning disability” in medical, legal, and educational environments. This includes the phrasing in the ICD.

Related ICD-10 Codes

Most kids are bound to struggle with certain skills or subjects at various points throughout their education. However, when a specific topic or skill proves cumbersome for them over time, then they might have one of various learning disabilities. A child might have trouble in one area or more, even when they don’t struggle with motivation or intelligence. 

Students with learning disorders might get overwhelmed and frustrated with their inability to master a subject, and that can get worse over time if they work hard but get nowhere. Eventually, they might start acting out, feeling helpless, or withdrawing. These situations can result in behavioral and emotional disorders that include anxiety and attention-deficit or hyperactivity disorder. Proper diagnosis is necessary to help children stay on track and find success in school, and that’s why there are multiple ICD-10 codes for these learning disorders.

The F81 range of ICD-10 codes applies to specific developmental disorders of scholastic skills. These are disorders where individuals don’t progress in skill acquisition normally because the earliest stages of their development were disturbed. These diagnoses do not apply to people who simply don’t have the chance to learn, nor are these cases a consequence of intellectual disability, disease, or brain trauma.

ICD-10 code F81.0 is the primary code, and it refers to specific reading disorder. The primary feature of this condition is a serious impairment in a person’s reading skills development, and it assumes they have been provided sufficient schooling and have adequate eyesight. Tasks that might be impaired include visual reading, oral reading, and word recognition. Spelling difficulties are possible and might last into the teenage years. Disorders involving language or speech development might precede specific reading disorders.

The diagnostic code for mathematics disorder is F81.2, and it relates to a particular issue with arithmetical skills not based on insufficient schooling or overall intellectual disability. This deficit can manifest as difficulty in mastering computational fundamentals, such as addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division. Later education might reveal an inability to master abstract math skills necessary for geometry, trigonometry, algebra, and calculus.

Other closely related ICD-10 codes that might involve your clients include:

Causes and Risk Factors

Risk factors for learning disabilities start in the womb, and the development of a fetus can be impacted by things such as drug or alcohol use by the mother. Environmental factors also play a role during the infant years, including substandard nutrition or lead exposure via paint or water. Young children who don’t get enough support for early intellectual development might start demonstrating signs of learning disorders when they go to school. Learning disabilities can also manifest later in life because of injury to the brain or dementia.


Learning disorders have many potential symptoms. Difficulty with reading can present as reading that happens slowly, inaccurately, or only with much effort. A person might have difficulty spelling words or understanding what they mean. They can also demonstrate difficulty with written expression through organization, punctuation, and grammar. Math complications can occur when understanding number facts, calculations, or concepts. Trouble with mathematical reasoning can also occur when solving problems or applying mathematical concepts.


To diagnose a client with a specific reading disorder, four criteria come into play:

  • The client needs to have demonstrated trouble in specific areas for a minimum of six months, even with targeted help. This requirement helps prevent overdiagnosis of children simply struggling with a subject for a while.
  • Their academic skills must be significantly below what would be expected at their age and to the point of causing issues with school and daily life.
  • Their learning difficulties can’t be the result of speech impediments, socioeconomic risk factors, intellectual disability, neurological conditions, insufficient teaching, or hearing or vision issues.
  • The difficulties must start in childhood, even when the client’s issues don’t manifest as significant learning impairment until later in life.

A formal diagnosis involves school reports, family history, interviews, and observation. You might need to conduct neuropsychological testing to determine the specific disorder so that you can notate the proper code and treatment.


Specific learning disorder doesn’t have a cure, but treatment is possible so that your clients can manage their condition throughout life. Many people diagnosed with this condition still become skilled learners and build strengths they can use in fulfilling careers. Individuals diagnosed with dyslexia are known to be creative thinkers who think outside the norms. It would be best to tell your clients that learning disorders don’t rule out any career choices or potential for success. However, the earlier intervention can happen, the better. There are many effective strategies to cope with learning disorders, and kids can avoid many school issues as well as damage to their self-esteem with the proper help.

Federal programs such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, might provide resources to clients who obtain eligibility through a learning disorder diagnosis. Children and students suspected of suffering from a specific learning disorder must be evaluated to qualify for special education services. A team that includes parents and school professionals will develop an individualized education plan for that student to help them with math, reading, and writing. Multimodal teaching that utilizes multiple senses often proves helpful. Students might also benefit from certain accommodations, including smaller class sizes, extra time for written assignments and testing, and using computers or technology to type instead of doing it manually.

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