Specific Learning Disorders (Dyslexia etc)

What are specific learning disorders?

Specific Learning Disorders are difficulties in academic skills, such as reading, spelling, writing, or maths, despite adequate ability and education, and efforts to overcome the problems. The most common form of Specific Learning Disorder used to be referred to as ‘Dyslexia’, which relates to slow or effortful word reading, difficulty obtaining meaning from what is read, and/or problems in spelling. People with Specific Learning Disorders may also have difficulty expressing themselves in writing or struggle with grasping or retaining maths concepts, numbers, or maths procedures. A Specific Learning Disorder is not the same as an intellectual disability.

Many people have Specific Learning Disorders that go undiagnosed. These can cause misery, with children being accused of being ‘lazy’ or ‘careless’ at school, rather than being recognised as having a true limitation.

How are specific learning disorders diagnosed?

Specific Learning Disorders can only adequately be diagnosed by a psychoeducational assessment. A psychoeducational assessment is a specialist psychological assessment that includes assessment of general intellectual functioning and assessment of achievement in reading, writing, and spelling (or whatever areas are causing difficulty). This lengthy assessment (about 2½ hours) enables the child’s or adult’s learning to be compared to the level expected for his or her intellectual ability and compared to others the same age. This assessment determines whether a Specific Learning Disorder is present and makes recommendations to enhance learning.

Future learning

Children with Specific Learning Disorders are often failed to grasp key concepts and skills, such as the sounds of letters and letter-groups and require targeted remediation from a specialist tutor or remediation program to overcome these gaps. They need teaching suited to their learning style, and may need modified work. The diagnosis of a Specific Learning Disorder entitles children to special accommodations, such as extra time for tests and exams.

Although Specific Learning Disorders last throughout life, their effects often diminish with age, especially if treated with specialist assistance, suitable teaching, and accommodations to enable fair assessment. Many people with Specific Learning Disorders go on to study at university or attain a trade qualification. People with Specific Learning Disorders can excel in their chosen area of work, and in all arenas of life.

Dr Kate Alessia

Clinical Psychologist & Social Worker

Tel: 0400 444 040

1A Station Place
Hindmarsh SA 5007

PO Box 106, North Adelaide 5006


Copyright 2004 - 2018 Kate Alessia