Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

– Adopted by the International Dyslexia Association Nov. 12, 2002.


Dyscalculia is a term referring to a wide range of life-long learning disabilities involving maths. It includes all types of maths problems ranging from an inability to understand the meaning of numbers, to an inability to apply mathematical principles to solve problems.

Dyscalculia is estimated to occur in up to 3% of the population (Westwood, P. 2008). Simply performing poorly in maths does not necessarily mean that a student has dyscalculia, it could also be maths anxiety. A series of tests is used to determine if a student has dyscalculia. An evaluation reveals how a person understands and uses numbers and maths concepts to solve advanced-level, as well as everyday, problems. The evaluation compares a person’s expected and actual levels of skill and understanding while noting specific strengths and weaknesses.

Recognising a student’s strengths and weaknesses is the first step to getting help. Following identification, parents, teachers and tutors can work together to establish strategies that will help the student learn maths more effectively. Help outside the classroom lets a student achieve mastery in areas of weakness before moving on to new topics. Repeated reinforcement and specific practice can make understanding easier.


Dysgraphia is a specific learning disability that affects written expression. Dysgraphia can appear as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper. Dysgraphia can be a language based, and/or non-language based disorder. Many people have poor handwriting, but dysgraphia is more serious. Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder that generally appears when children are first learning to write. Experts are not sure what causes it, but early treatment can help prevent or reduce problems. Writing requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills. Not only does it require the ability to organize and express ideas in the mind. It also requires the ability to get the muscles in the hands and fingers to form those ideas, letter by letter, on paper. There are many ways to help a person with dysgraphia achieve success. Generally strategies fall into three categories:

  • Accommodations: providing alternatives to written expression, such as adjusting assessments (oral).
  • Modifications: changing expectations or tasks to minimize or avoid the area of weakness.
  • Remediation: providing instruction for improving handwriting and writing skills.

Each type of strategy should be considered when planning instruction and support. A person with dysgraphia will benefit from help from both specialists and those who are closest to the person. Using assisted technology, graphic organisers, and being taught written skills in a direct explicit way can help get ideas on the paper while teaching the process of writing.

Dyspraxia – Developmental Coordination Disorder

Dyspraxia isn’t a sign of muscle weakness or of low intelligence. It’s a brain-based condition that makes it hard to plan and coordinate physical movement. Children with dyspraxia tend to struggle with balance and posture. They may appear clumsy or “out of sync” with their environment.[1]

Dyspraxia goes by many names: developmental coordination disorder, motor learning difficulty, motor planning difficulty and apraxia of speech. It can affect the development of gross motor skills like walking or jumping. It can also affect fine motor skills. These include things like the hand movements needed to write clearly and the mouth and tongue movements needed to pronounce words correctly.

Assistive technology, such as dictation software and touch screens, can be a big help to kids who have trouble with motor skills. Classroom accommodations are another important tool. Examples include giving extra time to complete assignments and providing worksheets that have the problems already written on them.

Dyspraxic students may also have difficulty with planning and organising their thoughts, making writing difficult.


ADHD is a common disorder that impacts focus, self-control, organisation, working memory and other skills important in daily life. It’s caused by differences in brain anatomy and wiring, and often runs in families. It is a chronic condition marked by persistent inattention, hyperactivity and sometimes impulsivity. ADHD begins in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. As many as 2 out of every 3 children with ADHD continue to have symptoms as adults.

Many children who are diagnosed early (5 years or younger) may miss out on being diagnosed with a concurrent learning disorder, like dyslexia, dyscalculia or dysgraphia. It is important to monitor their progress and seek help if you are concerned with continued slow progress with reading, writing and mathematics.

Dyslexia occurs in roughly 20 to 40 percent of kids with ADHD. This common learning issue impacts the ability to read

ADHD and Dyslexia

Often these two diagnoses are co-morbid, that is they go hand in hand with each other. Each individual condition exacerbates the other, making learning difficult. They have several symptoms in common, such as information processing speed challenges, working memory, naming speed and motor skills deficits. However, there are differences between ADHD and dyslexia.

ADHD symptoms are usually apparent very early in a child’s schooling, whereas dyslexia is often not fully recognized until a child is expected to move from learning to read, to reading to learn; around 4th grade. Unfortunately, parents are often told not to be too concerned as children learn at different rates and will probably catch up. This is too frequently not the case.

Differences and Similarities between the two conditions include:-

  • Dyslexic students who haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD will exhibit concentration and attention problems, primarily with reading demands but generally not in other situations. For individuals with ADHD, attention is low in any unstimulating environment or task.
  • Generally, those diagnosed with dyslexia are better at auditory processing than those with ADHD.

Those with ADHD comorbid with dyslexia are at high risk for self-esteem issues. They will often also develop anxiety related mood disorders and may develop a fear of school.

Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a neurological condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organised into appropriate responses. People with SPD find it difficult to process sensory information (e.g. sound, touch and movement) from the world around them. This means that they may feel sensory input more or less intensely than other people. SPD can therefore impact on a person’s ability to interact in different environments and perform daily activities.

Each person with a sensory processing disorder (SPD) has unique needs and sensory difficulties. The first step on the road to treatment is to determine which senses are over- or under-sensitive. Then, working with a trained therapist, children and adults can develop strategies to cope. Make sure to find a therapist with training in sensory integration.

A Sensory Processing Disorder can often make learning difficult. While other conditions such as dyslexia or a language processing disorder are considered a specific learning disability, SPD is not. It does interfere with learning and certain classroom accommodations may be warranted.

Working Memory

Working memory involves the ability to keep information active in your mind for a short time (2-3 seconds) to be able to use it for further processing. Working memory is a temporary storage system and is vital for many day-to-day tasks (e.g. following instructions, responding in conversations, listening and reading comprehension, organisation). Working memory involves the manipulation and transformation of verbal and visual information (e.g. remembering instructions and their content to then carry it out, remembering what to say when called upon, keeping your place on the page when reading, reverse sequences of objects/numbers).

There are a number of way to improve your working memory: Structure the environment and use strategies to reduce the working memory load (e.g. break large goals into smaller ones, simplify information, chunk it, slow down the pace of delivery of information). Teach strategies for coping with working memory inefficiencies (i.e. minimize the load on working memory so the child can increase their capacity to learn).

Processing Speed

Processing speed is the pace at which you take in information, make sense of it and begin to respond. This information can be visual, such as letters and numbers. It can also be auditory, such as spoken language.

Having slow processing speed has nothing to do with how smart kids are—just how fast they can take in and use information. It may take kids who struggle with processing speed a lot longer than other kids to perform tasks, both school-related and in daily life. It doesn’t mean they don’t know the answer or won’t ‘get it’. It just means it will take longer to get there.