Recognising Specific Learning Difficulties

It is not unusual that students entering University may discover for the first time that they have a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD).

This is because they have developed strategies for managing their learning over the years. However, the Higher Education level of study at university can stretch these strategies so much that they may no longer work for them effectively.

SpLDs are often misunderstood. However, SpLDs:

  • are a lifelong condition – difficulties are managed not cured
  • are often inherited – it can run in families
  • are a biological/neurological condition – the brain is 'wired up differently'
  • are where information is processed in a different way
  • can be a big strength – especially for those in the more creative spheres of study.

SpLDs and reading, writing and spelling

SpLDs do not only affect reading, writing and spelling. However, reading, writing and spelling can be affected as the brain processes information differently to others.

You may find that:

  • letters can appear distorted, as can be seen in this YouTube video on Irlen Syndrome Sample Print Distortions  
  • people can confuse similar looking letters and numbers like 'p', 'd', 'b' and 'q' plus numbers such as 42 and 24
  • common letter patterns can be difficult to remember such as:
    • word endings – such as 'able' in 'available
    • double consonants – for example, 'nn' in 'planning'
    • vowel combinations – such as 'ie' as in 'friend'
  • remembering sound order in words is hard, such as 'minnelliam' for 'millennium'.

SpLDs are not about intelligence

Many people have been made to feel stupid because they find some things difficult that others find easy.

Are these people stupid?

  • Keira Knightly
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Richard Branson
  • Steve Jobs
  • Picasso
  • Steven Hawkins
  • Agatha Christie

You decide!

Living with SpLDs

See Kara Tointon’s film on YouTube describing her experiences as an actor with dyslexia.

Understand what it is like to be dyslexic from the perspective of a 12 year old by watching the 'Like a dyslexic' film on YouTube.

SpLDs and education

Having a SpLD can impact your learning. Find out more about how Specific Learning Difficulties affect study at Higher Education.

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