The term ‘Specific Learning Difficulty’ (SpLD) is a term that refers to a difference or difficulty with particular aspects of learning.
The most common SpLDs are dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, dyscalculia and dysgraphia. An individual may have one of these independently or they can co-exist as part of a wider profile.
Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) exist on a continuum from mild to moderate through to severe. There are common patterns of behaviour and ability, but there will be a range of different patterns of effects for each individual.
Everyone has a cognitive profile. A simple way to define these cognitive skills is to describe them as the underlying brain skills that make it possible for us to think, remember and learn. These are the skills that allows us to process the huge influx of information we receive each and every day at work, at school and in life. We all have relative strengths and weaknesses in our cognitive profiles but overall most of our skills will fall in the normal range.
Where a person has difficulty with the majority of these skills which is reflected in his/her learning and day-to-day living skills he/she is deemed to have a severe learning disability.
However, when an individual has difficulties or weaknesses in just one or two areas in contrast to average or good cognitive skills this is called a Specific Learning Difficulty.
It is very important to note that SpLDs are independent of intellectual ability, socio-economic or language background.
Having a SpLD does not predict academic potential. However, the path to achievement may be harder and may require far greater (usually unseen) effort and a distinct set of skills. The challenge and opportunity in an educational context – for teacher and student - is to be aware of the specific effects of these differences and to explore a variety of methods and techniques to facilitate optimal learning.
It is crucial to remember that a person with a SpLD may also have many strengths which can sometimes outweigh the weaknesses!