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A Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) is a diagnosis that is used to describe a person who is able to learn and achieve academically, but their knowledge in specific areas is disorganised or disordered. For example, a helpful way to think of dyslexia is dys- “disorganised or difficult” lexia- “word or lexicon” * lexicon = dictionary Inside your head. Typically, a person’s internal dictionary is ordered or organised (like a dictionary is organised alphabetically), making it easy and efficient to find and use words. A person with a disorganised dictionary has difficulties finding the words they want to use. This makes reading and spelling frustrating and fatiguing. Similarly, dyscalculia is like having a number line in your head that’s in the wrong order, or not straight.

There Are 5 Different Specific Learning Disorders

Currently, there are five types of specific learning disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The most well-known of these is dyslexia. Dyslexia and other learning disorders can affect people in many ways, however there is a set of symptoms that are characteristic of each and must be present for a diagnosis to be considered. These include:

  • Dyslexia– difficulties with word reading, spelling and fluent reading.
  • Dyscalculia– difficulties with number sense and understanding value, learning and memorising maths facts and completing calculations fluently.
  • SLD with impairment in reading– difficulties with word reading, reading comprehension and fluent reading.
  • SLD with impairment in mathematics– difficulties learning and memorising math facts, limited number sense and understanding of value, difficulties with problem solving and calculating fluently.
  • SLD with impairment in writing– difficulties with spelling, limited understanding and use of correct grammar and punctuation and limited clarity and organisation when writing.

How is a Diagnosis Made?

There are a number of other considerations that must be met before a diagnosis is given by an educational psychologist, but the patterns of difficulty that we’ve listed are a good place for other educational professionals to start when questioning whether someone has a specific learning disorder. Knowledge of these patterns of difficulty can also assist with tailoring intervention. More about that in another post.

If you have any questions or would like to have your child or a student assessed for a specific learning disorder, phone Scope Clinical & Educational Services or book online. Please request an appointment with Danielle Copplin and note that it is for psychoeducational assessment.

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