What are Specific Learning Difficulties?
A specific learning difficulty (SpLD) is a difference or difficulty with some particular aspects of learning. The most common SpLDs are Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Attention Deficit Disorder/ Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder, Dyscalculia and Dysgraphia.
Why should I choose your services?
Our specialist tutors and assessors hold qualifications recognised by the following professional bodies:
- British Dyslexia Association
- Professional Association of Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties (Patoss)
- Education Workforce for Wales as a teacher
Can anyone assess for Specific Learning Difficulties?
It is recommended that assessment for Specific Learning Difficulties is carried out by holders of an Assessment Practising Certificate (APC). The Develop Us assessors hold APC awarded by Patoss, the Professional Association of Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. It’s a specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing. Unlike a learning disability, intelligence isn’t affected.
What are the early signs of dyslexia?
The signs and symptoms of dyslexia differ from person to person. Each individual with the condition will have a unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses.
Some of the most common signs of dyslexia are outlined below.
In some cases, it’s possible to detect symptoms of dyslexia before a child starts school.
Symptoms can include:
- delayed speech development compared with other children of the same age (although this can have many different causes)
- speech problems, such as not being able to pronounce long words properly and “jumbling” up phrases (for example, saying “hecilopter” instead of “helicopter”, or “beddy tear” instead of “teddy bear”)
- problems expressing themselves using spoken language, such as being unable to remember the right word to use, or putting sentences together incorrectly
- little understanding or appreciation of rhyming words, such as “the cat sat on the mat”, or nursery rhymes
- difficulty with, or little interest in, learning letters of the alphabet
Symptoms of dyslexia usually become more obvious when children start school and begin to focus more on learning how to read and write.
Symptoms of dyslexia in children aged 5 to 12 include:
- problems learning the names and sounds of letters
- spelling that’s unpredictable and inconsistent
- putting letters and figures the wrong way round (such as writing “6” instead of “9”, or “b” instead of “d”)
- confusing the order of letters in words
- reading slowly or making errors when reading aloud
- visual disturbances when reading (for example, a child may describe letters and words as seeming to move around or appear blurred)
- answering questions well orally, but having difficulty writing the answer down
- difficulty carrying out a sequence of directions
- struggling to learn sequences, such as days of the week or the alphabet
- slow writing speed
- poor handwriting
- problems copying written language and taking longer than normal to complete written work
- poor phonological awareness and word attack skills
Phonological awareness is the ability to recognise that words are made up of smaller units of sound (phonemes) and that changing and manipulating phonemes can create new words and meanings.
A child with poor phonological awareness may not be able to correctly answer these questions:
- What sounds do you think make up the word “hot”, and are these different from the sounds that make up the word “hat”?
- What word would you have if you changed the “p” sound in “pot” to an “h” sound?
- How many words can you think of that rhyme with the word “cat”?
Word attack skills
Young children with dyslexia can also have problems with word attack skills.
This is the ability to make sense of unfamiliar words by looking for smaller words or collections of letters that a child has previously learnt.
For example, a child with good word attack skills may read the word “sunbathing” for the first time and gain a sense of the meaning of the word by breaking it down into “sun”, “bath”, and “ing”.
Teenagers and adults
As well as the problems mentioned above, the symptoms of dyslexia in older children and adults can include:
- poorly organised written work that lacks expression (for example, even though they may be very knowledgeable about a certain subject, they may have problems expressing that knowledge in writing)
- difficulty planning and writing essays, letters or reports
- difficulties revising for examinations
- trying to avoid reading and writing whenever possible
- difficulty taking notes or copying
- poor spelling
- struggling to remember things such as a PIN or telephone number
- struggling to meet deadlines
How do I help my dyslexic child?
As a parent, you might be unsure about the best way to help your child.
Read to your child
This will improve their vocabulary and listening skills, and will also encourage their interest in books.
Both read some of the book and then discuss what’s happening, or what might happen.
You may get bored of reading your child’s favourite book over and over, but repetition will reinforce their understanding and means they’ll become familiar with the text.
Children also need the chance to read alone to encourage their independence and fluency.
Make reading fun
Reading should be a pleasure, not a chore. Use books about subjects your child is interested in, and make sure that reading takes place in a relaxed and comfortable environment.
Parents also play a significant role in improving their child’s confidence, so it’s important to encourage and support your child as they learn.
Technology for older children
Many older children with dyslexia feel more comfortable working with a computer than an exercise book.
This may be because a computer uses a visual environment that better suits their method of learning and working.
Word processing programmes can also be useful because they have a spellchecker and an autocorrect facility that can highlight mistakes in your child’s writing.
Most web browsers and word processing software also have text-to-speech functions, where the computer reads the text as it appears on the screen.
Speech recognition software can also be used to translate what a person is saying into written text.
This software can be useful for children with dyslexia because their verbal skills are often better than their writing.
There are also many educational interactive software applications that may provide your child with a more engaging way of learning a subject, rather than simply reading from a textbook.
How is dyslexia diagnosed?
A Diagnostic Assessment is intended to confirm whether an individual has dyslexia or not.
A Diagnostic Assessment can only be carried out by a certified person qualified to assess, such as a:
- A psychologist specialising in specific learning difficulties (SpLD) registered with the Health Care Practitioners Council (HCPC)
- Specialist teacher/assessor with AMBDA and/or an Assessment Practising Certificate (APC)