Skip Navigation


Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) affect the way information is learned and processed. They are neurological (rather than psychological), usually run in families and occur independently of intelligence. They can have significant impact on education and learning and on the acquisition of literacy skills.

SpLD is an umbrella term used to cover a range of frequently co-occurring difficulties, most commonly known as:

  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)
  • Dyscalculia
  • Dysgraphia
  • Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD or AD(H)D)

As with any disability, no two individuals experience the same combination of difficulties and some people may exhibit signs of more than one SpLD, such as:

  • Memory difficulties.
  • Organisational difficulties.
  • Writing difficulties.
  • Reading difficulties.
  • Auditory processing difficulties.
  • Time management difficulties.
  • Sensory distraction: an inability to screen out extraneous visual or auditory stimuli.
  • Sensory overload: a heightened sensitivity to visual stimuli and sound; a challenge to cope within busy environments.

Dr Elke Weissman from the Department of Media at Edge Hill discusses how she has supported students with SPLDs on her modules.

Positive ways you can support a student with a SpLD

Talk to the student about their SpLD and find out how it affects them and consider ways to support them, such as:

  • Providing an inclusive teaching and learning environment such as making your resources accessible.
  • Being patient with the student – students with a SpLD may find tasks more challenging and may require more time and support so it is important to be patient with them.
  • Reassure students that you are trying to understand how their disability affects them and discuss ways that you can support them.
  • Signpost students to resources such as Assistive Technology and apps.
  • Using the inclusive digital practice toolkit may be useful for you and the student
  • Being sure to use technology such as Lecture Capture to support students who may be unable to attend the lecture on the day or may benefit from watching and listening to the lecture more than once to help them understand and absorb the information at their own pace.
  • Check if there are any reasonable adjustments you can put in place to support the student.

If you are unsure of how to support the student or you need advice on reasonable adjustments refer the student to Catalyst for specialist support – see the how to refer tab for more information.

It is important to consider that students with SpLD may have had negative experiences of stigma and judgement throughout their education and life. It is therefore important to be aware of what you say to students.

  • Don’t say phrases like “You just need to focus”, “You need to try harder”, “Check your spelling”, “You get extra time for exams? Isn’t that an unfair advantage?”, “There’s no such thing as ADHD”, “It’s just an excuse!”
  • Don’t be judgemental.
  • Don’t be impatient with the student if they are finding things more challenging or are taking longer to complete a task.
  • Don’t leave the student to struggle without referring them for learning support.

Check if there are any reasonable adjustments you can put in place to support the student.

If a student discloses a SpLD or you notice some indicators of a SpLD, please direct them to the Disability Support team in Catalyst.

Refer to the Student Support Plan if the student has one – these are shared with the named contact in the Department or Faculty.

If the student requires support with anything else including accommodation, money advice or wellbeing support contact the Catalyst Helpdesk to make a referral.

If your student’s disability or condition is affecting their wellbeing or mental health see our Mental Health toolkits for advice on how to support them.

Back to the disability and inclusion main menu