Learning Difficulties (sometimes referred to as "learning differences") relates to significant and unusual difficulties in the acquisition and use of one or more of the following areas: listening, speaking, reading, writing and mathematical skills. In Australia learning difficulties are also referred to as dyslexia, learning disorders, learning disabilities, and/or specific learning difficulties. Learning difficulties are not indicative of intelligence levels, in fact some children demonstrate high levels of intelligence in some specific areas such as visual-spatial ability or motor skills. On the other hand, some other children can have global learning difficulties, and they will be seen as 'slow learners' in all academic areas.
Learning difficulties are not primarily due to low intelligence, sensory problems such as vision or hearing problems, emotional problems or poor parenting or teaching. However, they may be associated with a diagnosed primary problem such as an attention problem (e.g. ADHD), a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (e.g. Autism Spectrum Disorder) or a Communication Disorder (e.g. Specific Language Impairment).
Common Characteristics of a Learning Difficulty:
- Average to above average general ability, but with under-achievement in some learning areas.
- Difficulties with the development of literacy skills: reading accuracy and comprehension, spelling, written expression.
- Difficulty with "multi-modal" tasks, such as listening to the teacher at the same time as copying from the board or making something.
- Taking longer than other children to carry out and complete a task.
- Trouble remembering ideas in sequence such as times tables or the words to a song.
- Difficulty concentrating and paying attention and easily distracted.
- Memory problems e.g. cant follow instructions especially if there are many parts, cant remember newly learned information such as Maths concepts.
- Organisation difficulties e.g. a poor concept of time, or forgets to bring the right equipment to class.
- May have a history of delayed developmental milestones e.g. speech and language, or motor skills.
- May have a family history of learning difficulties.
Students can have learning difficulties in literacy Dyslexia; difficulties in learning or comprehending mathematics Dyscalculia; or difficulty expressing themselves in writing - Dysgraphia.
Some Common Questions often asked by Parents:
- Does your child struggle with reading, spelling or writing?
- Do they mix up letters or jumble their sentences?
- What is my child's potential?
- What are my child's strengths and weaknesses?
Learning difficulties may hinder your child's learning at school and their motivation to go to school. This can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety or even depression. This is why a full assessment by a qualified Educational Psychologist would be appropriate.