Specific learning difficulties

A learning difficulty is not the same thing as a learning disability.

A specific learning difficulty (SpLD) means that someone has a difference or difficulty with one or more certain parts of learning.

Having a SpLD does not mean that children and young people cannot achieve and succeed in learning. But it may be harder for them to succeed in school and they might need greater effort and different skills. They may also need greater and different support in the classroom.

A learning disability is a condition that affects somebody’s ability to learn new knowledge or skills. Learning disabilities can range from mild to severe in how much they affect a person, and they do not necessarily relate to a low IQ. Many people with learning disabilities can live independently and have jobs and families, while others may need care and support throughout their lives.

Support from your education setting

Your education setting should be able to provide support for your child or young person. If your child or young person's education setting believe they are showing signs of SpLd they should be able to provide support.

Find out what SEND support and guidance is available if your child is in:

If your child has an education, health and care (EHC) plan, they should still be able to get support from mainstream education settings. There are 2 secondary schools with specialist resource provisions for SpLD. These are for children who need specialist input to progress their learning and would struggle to take part in mainstream school life.

Alternatively, see what local support there is available in your community.

Types of specific learning difficulties

The most common SpLD are:

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition which affects parts of the brain which control attention, impulses and concentration. It can have an impact on school, peer relationships, self-esteem and family life without appropriate treatment.

The signs of ADHD are different in every person but they may include some of the following:

  • a short attention span and being easily distracted
  • making careless mistakes, for example, in schoolwork
  • appearing forgetful or losing things
  • being unable to concentrate on tasks
  • excessive talking
  • acting without thinking.

For additional support and guidance you can visit:

Dyslexia is a common specific learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. Unlike a learning disability, intelligence isn't affected.

The signs of dyslexia are different in every person but they may include some of the following:

  • difficulties with reading and writing
  • poor spelling and/or handwriting
  • writing letters in the incorrect order
  • difficulty understanding written information
  • difficulty planning and organising tasks
  • difficulty with time perception

For additional support and guidance you can visit

Dyspraxia, also known as developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), is a common disorder that affects movement and co-ordination, such as tasks requiring balance, playing sports or learning to drive a car. Dyspraxia does not affect your intelligence.

The signs of dyspraxia are different in every person but may include:

  • problems with activities that require any kind of physical movement or coordination, such as playground games
  • navigating around the house, including going up and down the stairs
  • writing and drawing, or doing craft activities
  • tying shoelaces or buttoning up clothes
  • using cutlery
  • sitting still.

For additional support and guidance you can visit:

Dyscalculia is a term used to describe specific learning disability that affects a child's ability to understand, learn, and perform maths and number-based operations.

The signs of dyscalculia are different in every person but they may include:

  • a poor understanding of number and estimation
  • weak mental arithmetic skills
  • difficulty in remembering mathematical facts and procedures, even with extensive practice
  • taking a very long time over calculations
  • difficulty counting backwards
  • the inability to tell whether answers are right or nearly right

For additional support and guidance you can visit

Dysgraphia is a term that refers to trouble with recognising written words, letters and the sounds they make. As a result writing, spelling and forming words is challenging for those with Dysgraphia.

The signs of dysgraphia are different in every person but they may include:

  • unclear, irregular or inconsistent handwriting
  • writing very slowly
  • mixing styles and upper/lower case letters
  • inconsistent letter and word spacing
  • unusual or cramped grip or position while writing
  • incorrect spelling.

For additional support and guidance you can visit