It is thought that as many as 15% of us have SpLDs (Specific Learning Difficulties), an umbrella term used to describe a group of difficulties that can frequently co-occur.

Many people remain undiagnosed so we are highly likely to encounter students who require us to be aware and able to support them appropriately. Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) affect our ability to learn and process information effectively. They are not connected to our intellectual capabilities, are neurologically based and often hereditary. No two people with SpLDs show exactly the same profile and difficulties are on a continuum from very mild to very severe. Consequently as educators we should never underestimate the importance of expanding our own knowledge. We can improve our teaching techniques to match the learning style and needs of our students.

Difficulties we are likely to encounter are:

Dyslexia: primarily affecting the skills required for accurate and fluent reading and spelling. Dyslexia is characterised by difficulties with phonological processing, working memory and auditory processing speed. Other difficulties may co-exist such as poor organisational skills, visual processing difficulties, problems with mental maths, concentration and motor skills.

For more information: http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/educator.

Dyspraxia: also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a common disorder primarily affecting fine and/or gross motor coordination. Many people with DCD also experience difficulties with memory, perception, processing, articulation and speech.

For more information: https://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/about-dyspraxia/

Dyscalculia: also known as Developmental Dyscalculia (DD), it is characterised by impairments in learning basic arithmetic facts, processing numerical magnitude and performing accurate and fluent calculations.

For more information (including links to publications which offer pragmatic help): http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/dyslexic/dyscalculia.

Attention deficit disorder (with or without hyperactivity) ADD / ADHD: primarily affecting the ability to focus and pay attention. Often children with AD(H)D can be impulsive, fidgety and hyperactive, whilst others, particularly girls, can appear dreamy. In addition, all have difficulty in maintaining and controlling attention.

For more information:


Students with SpLDs usually need extra support in one academic area while coping well, or even excelling, in other areas of academic, sporting or artistic achievement. Students do not all learn in the same way. Often these students can be verbally bright and find it extremely frustrating and taxing to get their ideas down on paper.

Be encouraging and patient in your approach; often students with SpLDs can find themselves lacking confidence and self-esteem due to focusing on all the things that they feel they don’t do as well as other people. Build confidence through encouraging a mastery of skills, a sense of achievement and patient support. Consequently, as tutors we are in a unique and privileged position to help these students. Tailor your lessons to the individual learner, employ multi-sensory teaching techniques and pay time and attention to the student’s specific needs.

Sarah Cox

For specific advice and support on any of these issues, please contact Sarah directly.

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