A specific learning difficulty (SpLD) is the term used to describe a difference or difficulty with some particular aspects of learning.
Difficulties within this area of need may include:
- Processing difficulties (slow processing speed)
- Working memory difficulties
- Dyslexia/persistent literacy difficulties
- Dyspraxia/Developmental Co-ordination Disorder
This area of need is referred to in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice 0-25 (2015).
Dyslexia is a recognised disability under the Equality Act (2010) which requires organisations to ensure that people with disabilities are not treated unfavourably and are offered reasonable adjustments.
Most children and young people will have their specific learning difficulties needs met without the need for formal identification. Schools can identify areas of difficulty in ‘working memory’ ‘phonological knowledge’ etc. and use evidence-based interventions to support and review a child’s needs and progress.
A clear definition of Dyslexia was provided through The Rose Report (2009) which stated:
“ Dyslexia is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points. Until recently, a child was deemed to either have or not have dyslexia. It is now recognised that there is no sharp dividing line between having a learning difficulty such as dyslexia and not having it.”
How schools support literacy difficulties
Schools use various assessment tools to accurately assess the nature of a child’s strengths and difficulties that can be used to plan interventions and then put in place relevant support.
These tools include the Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle (as outlined by SEND Code of Practice 2015) which is a graduated response that provides a model for action and intervention for pupils with a range of learning difficulties including literacy difficulties.
Bromley’s graduated approach framework provides guidance to teachers and practitioners regarding appropriate identification, assessment and evidence based intervention using the Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle.
Training for teachers and support staff is available through the SEND Training Collaborative and Bromley’s Teaching School Alliance. Information is also shared through regular SENCo e-digests and forums.
Each school has a SEND Information Report on their website which sets out what support is available to support your child’s needs. All teachers are experienced in supporting children with literacy-based difficulties: spelling, reading, writing skills and numeracy.
Teachers at your child’s school or setting will be monitoring his or her progress carefully and every school has a responsibility to develop and incorporate whole-school practices that promote literacy skills, including for those pupils who experience literacy difficulties.
Most children’s literacy abilities will improve in response to interventions that are put in place within the school setting.
Working in partnership with the school and being part of the ‘team’ supporting your child is important. As a parent or carer you should raise any concerns that you have with your child’s teacher or special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCo).
How do I know if my child has dyslexia?
Dyslexia manifests itself in many different ways. The most common difficulties associated with dyslexia are problems encountered with any of the following: reading, writing, spelling, organisation, memory, word retrieval and speed of processing. You may have noticed your child is experiencing difficulties with some of these. There are also well known ‘at risk’ factors such as a family history of similar difficulties.
Many of the difficulties are common during a child’s first year or two at school. However, if a group of these difficulties persist beyond the time when the average child has grown out of them, this may indicate dyslexia and advice should be sought.
Getting an assessment
If you are concerned that your child may have dyslexia, first discuss this with your child's class teacher. You could also arrange a meeting with the school's SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) to discuss your concerns and thoughts. The SENCo may be able to arrange for screening to give an indication of possible dyslexic difficulties
Screening tests are used where a child is not developing their literacy skills in the expected way. They can provide a profile of strengths and weaknesses which can be used to further guide the development of in-school support for the child.
The SENCo may also arrange further assessments at school and arrange any required interventions. They may seek input from an educational psychologist or another appropriately qualified specialist.
Formal assessment will help to further identify specific areas of weakness and highlight appropriate strategies of support. If a formal assessment is required this is likely to be carried out by an educational psychologist or a teacher with specialist training and accreditation.
Support and interventions
There are a range of interventions and support that can be put in place depending on the nature and severity of the needs. You can talk to your child’s class teacher or SENCo about what support and interventions might help.
Your class teacher or SENCo may suggest some activities that you can do at home to support your child too.
Exam access and support
Children and young people may find formal tests and exams a challenge and therefore, they may require access arrangements to be made.
It is important to note that a formal identification or professional report is not necessary to enable a school to apply for access arrangements for a pupil. Your child’s school will need to evidence assessments that they have carried out and the support your child regularly accesses e.g. reading support and send it to the appropriate examination board.
It is important to know that each child with dyslexia will have different requirements which will be identified through school assessments. Parents can speak to their child’s SENCO regarding ongoing support for their child.
Access arrangements may include:
- Extra time (25 percent is usual)
- Reader/computer reader
- Oral Language Modifier
- A Scribe
- Using a laptop/word processor instead of handwriting
- Exam papers to be on a coloured paper
- Hard copy instead of on-screen
- Supervised rest breaks
- There are also other arrangements available
Helping your child at home
Many children who find learning difficult can get frustrated and demotivated which may lead to low self-esteem. Support, understanding and realistic target setting are useful ways of maintaining a positive self-image.
Some additional tips for helping your child at home include:
- Be supportive.
- Talk to your child.
- Take steps to help your child learn at home.
- Limit screen time.
- Stay in contact with your child's class teacher and SENCO.
- Ask about any support that your child is receiving at school that may be used at home to further support your child.
- Join a support group.