Specific Learning Difficulties

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Specific learning difficulties (SpLD) are where the impact of the child or young person’s cognitive difficulties is seen in a particular area of learning, such as reading or mathematics.

These terms, referring to types of specific learning difficulties, may be encountered:


Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed. Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities. It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points. Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor coordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia. A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well-founded intervention. (Rose, 2009)


Dyscalculia (or mathematics disorder) is defined as a significant difficulty in numerical processing despite otherwise normal intellectual abilities and educational experiences. (Government Office for Science, 2020)

Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD)

Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD) is the internationally recognised term for developmental dyspraxia. It is characterised by significant difficulties in both gross motor and fine motor coordination, which can cause widespread difficulties in daily life – for example in handwriting. Individuals with DCD often show additional problems in literacy, attention and social communication, and on average tend to show poorer educational outcomes. (Government Office for Science, 2020)

School support

It's understood that specific learning difficulties exist on a continuum of severity, and consequently support for these pupils’ special educational needs will exist at all levels of the graduated approach.

It's expected that most children and young people with a specific learning difficulty will have their needs met at SEN Support.

As with all areas of SEN, Buckinghamshire Council promotes a ‘needs-led’ (rather than ‘diagnosis-led’) approach. So it should be noted that identification or ‘diagnosis’ of a specific learning difficulty does not confer any additional school support or Local Authority resources on a pupil when compared with an individual with the same profile of needs who does not have a formal label. Similarly, having a diagnosis of a specific learning difficulty should not be a prerequisite for accessing any school-based support.

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