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Specific learning difficulties

Specific learning difficulties (SpLD) affect one or more specific aspects of learning and can be present at all levels of ability. Specific Learning Difficulty is also the term used to describe dyslexia and dyscalculia.

A young person with a specific learning difficulty will need a combination of quality first teaching and additional intervention. Children and young people with specific learning difficulties may need to be taught the skills to demonstrate their learning. They may experience difficulties making progress despite good attendance, good health and satisfactory attitudes to learning and robust teaching. It is possible for specific learning difficulties to be present alongside other learning difficulties, thus creating different complexities of special educational needs.

Children and young people with SpLD will often have difficulty with the following:

  • Working memory
  • Following instructions – the child or young person may only be able to retain the first or last part of an instruction
  • Organisation e.g. remembering equipment
  • Place-keeping difficulties – this may include difficulty copying from the board, reading/working from a textbook
  • Task completion
  • Reluctance to volunteer information
  • Recognising the shape and orientation of letters and numbers – this may include the sounds related letters
  • Memory of visual sequences e.g. pattern and written alphabet
  • Recall of recent events and teaching
  • Undertaking homework.

Please note: Dyspraxia is now known as Developmental co-ordination difficulties (DCD) and now comes under the sensory and physical section of the SEN Code of Practice. Information on DCD can be found under the relevant section of this website

Strategies and provision

In addition, to strategies and provision suggested in the general cognition and learning areas, the following may be of help:

  • Assessment through teaching or observation to identify needs -1:1 work with the child or young person to gain their views of their needs
  • Teach metacognition approaches in how we learn – if the young person or child understands this, they may be able to explain what helps them with their difficulty
  • It may be helpful to think in terms of neuro-diversity rather than difficulty – this may help adults to recognise and celebrate the strengths of each child or young person
  • Recognise and celebrate success in effort and show interest in other areas of their life
  • Seek advice from the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) and other specialist staff. Ensure that you know the recommended strategies or approaches for each child
  • Link learning to real world situations
  • Use evidence-based interventions to develop skills e.g. spelling, handwriting, literacy, numeracy.

To support memory:

  • Provide memory aids e.g. alphabet strips, number squares, post-its, key word lists, table squares
  • Use planning tools such as mind mapping.

For literacy difficulties:

  • Make simple changes to texts – this may include font style and size, coloured paper, line spacing and overlays and you may also consider the lighting in the room or appropriate use of technology
  • Use ‘think, pair, share’ to provide time to think
  • Consider how to best structure peer groupings -ensure that the child or young person has access to good role models for language and communication
  • Consider use of appropriate learning resources – this may include pencil grips, spelling aids and alternative methods for recording information
  • Provide opportunities of over learning through games to support reinforcement.

For numeracy difficulties:

  • Provide access to concrete resources e.g. hundred squares, number lines, Numicon etc.
  • Teach in the sequence of language, concrete resources and diagrams before symbols.
  • Support with the use of a calculator when mental calculation is not the focus of the session – for example, when solving word problems.

For developmental co-ordination difficulties:

Please see the Sensory and Physical Needs section. Developmental co-ordination difficulties (DCD) was previously known as dyspraxia.

Last updated 3 August 2021

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