Dyslexia / SpLD descriptors

  • These descriptors have been taken from the SpLD Working Group (2005 & 2018) DfES guidelines.

    Students with specific learning difficulties: dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit disorder, dyscalculia or a combination of these, can have difficulty acquiring fluent reading and writing skills, accurate spelling and/or mastering the manipulation of numbers. They may also experience problems with working memory, organisation, coordination, maintaining their concentration and with oral and auditory skills.

    It should be noted that specific learning difficulties can present differently depending on the educational task. For example, a student’s difficulties could be more noticeable when working under pressure of time in examinations, working to a coursework deadline or when organising and prioritising their workload. Students with specific learning difficulties (SpLDs) can benefit from additional support to achieve success and reach their full potential.  

    In general, recommended support is suitable for all especially where there are shared overlapping strengths and weakness for SpLDs.  

    • A combination of abilities and difficulties are seen in individuals with dyslexia; the difficulties affect the learning process in aspects of literacy and sometimes numeracy.
    • Completing the required reading is generally seen as the biggest challenge at Higher Education level, due in part to an inability to skim and scan written material.
    • A student may also be unable to clearly express written ideas in a style appropriate to their level of study.
    • Marked and persistent weaknesses may be identified in working memory, speed of processing, sequencing skills, auditory and/or visual perception, spoken language and motor skills.
    • Visual-spatial skills, creative thinking and intuitive understanding are less likely to be impaired and indeed may be regarded as a strength.
    • Assistive technology is often found to be very beneficial.
    • These difficulties, together with the characteristics common to many SpLDs, can present further barriers to learning.

      For further information, visit Action Dyslexia and the resources section of ADSHE (the professional association of specialists in specific learning difficulties in Higher Education).

    • A student with dyspraxia may have an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement, often appearing clumsy.
    • Gross and fine motor skills (related to balance and coordination) and fine motor skills (relating to manipulation of objects) are hard to learn and difficult to retain and generalise.
    • Individuals with dyspraxia may struggle to learn the spatial layout of their new environment quickly.
    • Writing is particularly laborious and keyboard skills difficult to acquire.
    • Individuals may have difficulty organising ideas and concepts when writing.
    • Individuals may find key points difficult to identify and so making notes on what they have read or heard in a lecture can be challenging.
    • The co-ordination and sequencing of information from different sources can be difficult.
    • Pronunciation may also be affected and individuals with dyspraxia may be over/under sensitive to noise, light and touch.
    • These difficulties, together with the characteristics common to many SpLDs, can present further barriers to learning.
    • For further information, see the resources section of ADSHE (the professional association of specialists in specific learning difficulties in Higher Education).
    • Dyscalculia is a learning difficulty involving the most basic aspect of arithmetic skills.
    • The difficulty lies in the reception, comprehension, or production of quantitative and spatial information.
    • Students with dyscalculia may have difficulty in understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers and have problems learning number facts and methods.
    • These can relate to basic concepts such as telling the time, calculating prices, handling change, estimating and measuring such things as temperature and speed.
    • These difficulties, together with the characteristics common to many SpLDs, can present further barriers to learning.
    • For further information, see the resources section of ADSHE (the professional association of specialists in specific learning difficulties in Higher Education).
    • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) exists with or without hyperactivity. In most cases, people with this disorder are often 'off task', have particular difficulty commencing and switching tasks, together with a very short attention span and high levels of distractibility.
    • They may fail to make effective use of the feedback they receive and have weak listening skills.
    • Those with hyperactivity may act impulsively and erratically, have difficulty foreseeing outcomes, fail to plan ahead and be noticeably restless and fidgety.
    • Those without the hyperactive trait tend to daydream excessively, lose track of what they are doing and fail to engage in their studies unless they are highly motivated.
    • These difficulties, together with the characteristics common to many SpLDs, can present further barriers to learning.
    • For further information, see the resources section of ADSHE (the professional association of specialists in specific learning difficulties in Higher Education).