Specific Learning Difficulties / Dyslexia

One of the most common learning difficulties that is found in schools is commonly referred to as ‘Dyslexia’. It is thought to affect around 10% of the population, 4% severely.

Dyslexia is one of a variety of Specific Learning Difficulties (or SpLDs), that affect the way information is learned and processed. It often runs in families and occurs independently of intelligence. It can have a significant impact on education and learning and on the acquisition of literacy skills.

In general, a student may be diagnosed with a SpLD where there is a lack of achievement in relation to age and ability level, or a large discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability. Dyslexia is not only about literacy, although weaknesses in literacy are often the most visible sign.

An untrained person, sometimes even a teacher (most teachers have had little specific training in Special Educational Needs) may label a student with a SpLD as ‘lazy‘, or having a poor attitude or ‘just not trying hard enough’. They may not understand the large discrepancy between reading comprehension and proficiency in verbal ability for example, or between reading level and poor written work. Within a busy classroom the teacher may not be aware of the difficulties a child may have processing information and may be critical of the output of work. Deficiencies in the processing of information can make learning and expressing ideas difficult or impossible tasks.

The effects of a SpLD are manifested differently for different students and range from mild to severe. It may be difficult to diagnose, to determine impact, and to accommodate, especially if there is no specialist teaching capacity.

Unidentified and unsupported dyslexia and related conditions can lead to emotional distress, frustration and poor self-esteem. This can result in a child becoming withdrawn, or more commonly to develop behavioural issues. Schools often focus on the resulting behavioural problems whereas it is vital to address the possible underlying causes.

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Diagnosing dyslexia 

Many people are aware of some signs that may indicate that a child has dyslexia, for example, reversals of letters and poor spelling. However, the definition and therefore the identification is not so simple. Here are some, possibly less well known, signs of dyslexia:

  • Slow processing of verbal and /or written language
  • Word finding difficulties
  • Difficulty following instructions – i.e. remembering a list of items asked to collect
  • Messy work with many crossings out and words tried several times
  • Difficulty with setting written work, doesn’t stay close to the margin etc.
  • Poor pencil grip
  • Unusual pronunciation of words
  • No expression in reading. Reading may be hesitant and laboured
  • Comprehension poor: loses the point of a story being read or written
  • Has difficulty in picking out the most important points from a passage

Difficulties are not only reflected in reading and writing but can impact other areas significantly such as:

Shows confusion with number order, e.g. units, tens, hundreds

  • Is confused by symbols such as + and x signs
  • Has difficulty remembering anything in a sequential order, e.g. tables, days of the week, the alphabet
  • Personal organisation and behaviour
  • Has difficulty in learning to tell the time
  • Shows poor time keeping and general awareness
  • Has poor personal organisation
  • Has difficulty remembering what day of the week it is, their birth date, seasons of the year, months of the year
  • Difficulty with concepts – yesterday, today, tomorrow
  • Is confused by the difference between left and right, up and down, east and west
  • Employs work avoidance tactics, such as sharpening pencils, looking for books
  • Seems to ‘dream’, does not seem to listen; is easily distracted
  • Is the class clown or is disruptive or withdrawn (these are often cries for help)
  • Is excessively tired due to amount of concentration and effort required
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A child who has a cluster of these difficulties together with some abilities may be dyslexic. 

Gaining a full picture of your child’s needs is essential to determine and help achieve the support they require. A specialist assessment will look at skills beyond just reading and spelling; it will be able to see if memory or visual perception skills, for example, are hampering progress. An experienced assessor will advise on how best to help. 

Most schools are not able to easily provide such specialist assessments or the waiting time may be excessive. Only teachers with additional, specialist qualifications or psychologists can carry out these assessments. 

With over 25 years of experience of working with students with Special Educational Needs and advising teachers within mainstream education as well as having post-graduate qualifications for teaching students with Dyslexia, Andrea is a highly regarded and passionate specialist teacher.

Latest specific-learning-difficulties testimonials:

Ethan SpLD

We were so pleased to find Andrea, through a friend’s recommendation. We were despairing about what to do with our son. The school said that there was nothing wrong with him but we knew that he was finding the work really difficult. Each day he would come out of school and have melt downs at home. He always took out his frustrations from school on us and his younger sister. Although we booked Ethan in for help with his reading and spelling, we received so much more. Andrea very soon recognised that he likely had dyslexia, which was a huge relief to us as we had suspected this for years. She talked to us about different methods to help him with his school spellings etc so that we no longer had the weekly battle and then upset, related to the class test. Andrea enabled us all to recognise the strengths of Ethan, rather than just focussing on his difficulties. She also carried out some assessments that showed that his memory was very poor. We were able to show her report to the school and they did begin to support him with the recommendations Andrea gave. 

We highly recommend Aspire Tuition due to the professional service but particularly because Andrea always went the extra mile for our son.

Year 5 student with literacy difficulties

Thanks Andrea. She went straight on after her session with you and made a word search with this week’s school spellings as well. She’s apparently told her teacher all about it today and her teacher has asked her to email it to the school.

We’ve seen such a difference in her since the summer. She seems so much more confident and, as you said, is now so much more willing to give things a go! She absolutely loves her sessions with you and always comes away feeling so positive and encouraged. We can’t help but recommend you!

Thank you for everything you’re doing to help her!

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