Specific Learning Difficulties (SPLDs)
Dyslexia is one of several Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs), and is characterised by a difficulty with reading that is unrelated to intelligence. People with dyslexia are affected to differing degrees, with the main problems being in reading quickly, spelling words, writing words, pronouncing words when reading out loud and understanding what one is reading. These difficulties are usually first noticed at school, though this is a relatively recent development. Many older people who did not do well at school have found out later in life that they are in fact dyslexic.
The cause of dyslexia is thought to be both genetic and environmental, with some cases running in families. Often people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have dyslexia. It is important to remember that dyslexia is different to difficulty in reading resulting from lower intelligence, poor teaching or difficulties with hearing or vision. It is more often diagnosed in males, and many believe it’s best considered as a different way of learning rather than a form of disability, with both benefits and downsides.
Other SpLDs include dyspraxia, dyscalculia and ADD/ADHD. All affect the way information is learned and processed. These are all neurological conditions rather than psychological and as with dyslexia, are unrelated to the person’s intelligence level. They can have a significant impact on a person’s education, especially literacy skills.
Dyspraxia or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) affects fine and/or gross motor coordination. Again, intellectual ability is not affected by or linked to this disorder, and difficulties may present differently from person to person.
Dyscalculia is a difficulty in understanding maths concepts and symbols. It is characterised by an inability to master basic numeracy skills, with a difficulty in dealing with numbers at elementary levels. This can include telling the time, time keeping, understanding quantities and prices and dealing with money. Difficulties with numeracy are common in people with dysalculia.
ADD/ADHD is characterised by restlessness, impulsiveness, erratic, unpredictable and inappropriate behaviour. Some children with ADD/ADHD may unintentionally come across as aggressive. The term Attention Deficit Disorder is used where no hyperactivity is present. These individuals have difficulty in remaining focused and so may appear "dreamy” or "in a world of their own.” People with this condition are very easily distracted and may also have poor listening skills and display an inability to follow instructions.
Some common characteristics of SpLDs include memory difficulties, reading and/or writing difficulties, organisational difficulties, visual and/or auditory processing difficulties, time management difficulties and sensory distraction or sensory overload.
Some organisations that can offer advice and support:
The British Dyslexia Association
The Dyslexia SpLD Trust
The dyspraxia Foundation
The dyscalculia Centre
The National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service