About Dyslexia and other Specific Learning Differences

‘Specific learning differences’ (SpLDs) are a group of conditions that seem to be caused by variations in the way the brain develops, leading to some individuals exhibiting a relatively unusual way of perceiving the world and processing information. The most common SpLDs are dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, AD(H)D and Asperger’s Syndrome, although the term can also be extended to include other conditions such as Tourette’s Syndrome, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

A SpLD is not a difficulty in itself, although people who have SpLDs often do experience difficulties in terms of functioning within the constraints of our society. A person who is identified as having one SpLD often has traits of others, to greater or lesser degrees. However, the exact degree of co-occurrence in any individual is hard to measure precisely because of the overlap of common characteristics.

The information below identifies some of the most common characteristics of SpLDs. It should be borne in mind that most people who have a SpLD do not manifest all of these traits, although several may be observable.

Characteristics of SpLDs

Particular Characteristics

Dyslexia – Difficulties with information processing, particularly phonological information

Dyspraxia – Problems with visuo-spatial awareness, sequencing of movements

AD(H)D – Impulsivity, lack of sustained concentration on one thing.

Asperger’s Syndrome – Difficulties with social interaction

Dyscalculia – Difficulties with numerical concepts, relative values / size / magnitude and time scales

Shared Characteristics

  • good and bad days
  • difficulty processing sensory input (visual, auditory or physical)
  • poor short term and/or working memory
  • lack of time awareness and management
  • hypersensitivity to environmental factors
  • difficulties with sequencing
  • difficulty in maintaining focus and especially in changing focus (from board to book, or TV to magazine)
  • difficulty with regulating pitch/volume/pace when speaking
  • lack of rhythm and /or balance
  • difficulties with listening, especially in groups
  • difficulties with turn-taking
  • avoiding new or unpredictable situations
  • difficulty with metaphoric language
  • difficulty sleeping
  • low self-esteem
  • the ability to surprise (especially by making unexpected connections between ideas)