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Other cognition and learning terms

Moderate learning difficulties

Many children and young people with moderate learning difficulties (MLD) will be identified early in their school progression. They are likely have difficulty acquiring basic numeracy and literacy skills. They may also learn at a slower pace than their peers, even with appropriate differentiation.

Children and young people with MLD may also have other difficulties, such as social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) and, or speech, language and communication. Children and young people who have received support through targeted interventions may not necessarily be categorised having learning difficulties. Evidence of difficulties in the areas below should also be considered:

  • memory and reasoning skills;
  • organising and co-ordinating spoken and written language;
  • sequencing and organising the steps needed to complete tasks;
  • problem solving and developing concepts;
  • fine and gross motor skills, which significantly impair access to the curriculum;
  • understanding of abstract concepts.

Useful information on memory

Severe learning difficulties

Children and young people with severe learning difficulties (SLD) have significant cognitive impairments. This has a major effect on their ability to participate in learning without support. They may also have difficulties with mobility and coordination, communication and perception and the acquisition of self-help skills. Children and young people with SLD will need support in all areas of the curriculum. They may also require teaching of self-help, independence and social skills and communication. Some children and young people may use sign and symbols but most will be able to interact verbally or hold simple conversations and gain some literacy and numeracy skills..

Profound and multiple learning difficulties

Children and young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) have significant cognitive difficulties and developmental delay in a number of areas.

They may have additional needs including basic self-help. Children and young people may be working at pre key-stage standards in some or all areas.

Children and young people with PMLD have severe difficulty in accessing most areas of the curriculum independently. Some will have significant difficulty accessing most areas of the curriculum with support.  

In addition, children and young people with PMLD will have significant difficulties with most of the following:

  • self-organisation;
  • social competence;
  • attention/concentration;
  • expressive and/or receptive language;
  • self-care.

Children and young people with PMLD have severe and complex learning needs; in addition, they have other significant difficulties such as physical disabilities or sensory impairment.

Children and young people with PMLD require a high level of adult support, both for their learning needs and for personal care. They are likely to need sensory stimulation and a curriculum broken down into very small steps. S

Some children and young people communicate by gesture, eye pointing or symbols, others by very simple language.

Last updated 30 September 2020

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