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About Specific Learning Disabilities

A specific learning disabilities (SLD) is a disorder of the central nervous system interfering with  one or more of the basic learning functions of collecting, sorting, storing and expressing information.


People with SLD experience persistent difficulty in learning, working and other daily activities.

They may find it difficult to listen, think, speak, read, hand write, spell or do math.



Estimates vary, but in various forms, they may affect up to 10% of all school children.

  • Most people have average, nearly average, or above-average intelligence.

  • Most people have no noticeable physical handicaps.


People often develop compensatory:

  • Strategies and these can disguise their difficulties

  • Strengths that can provide an opportunity to further enhance their learning

Common disabilities affect:

Types of Learning Difficulties


  • Are unexpected in relation to the person's age, intellectual and cognitive ability

  • Have different characteristics from person to person

  • Range  from mild to severe

People with SLD can be found across the achievement spectrum and sometimes have associated secondary characteristics that require addressing.  

Definitions of SLD types


A language based learning disability impacting basic reading and spelling skills.  It includes weaknesses in phonological awareness, word decoding and ability to do rapid recall and rapid naming (quickly naming common items or symbols including colours, numbers and familiar objects).


A disorder of motor function affecting the learning of new skills and performing of those already learnt.  

With dyspraxia the messages between sensory information planning and storing, ideation, motor planning and execution do not get through to produce the right results.

Characteristics include: 

Disruptive behaviour, falling and bumping into things, difficulty copying text from a book or whiteboard, sequencing challenges, difficulty with following instructions and more.


People with dyscalculia have a lack of ability to conceptualise and perform mathematical calculations.  

Difficulties can be with number sensing, linking numbers and symbols, comparing numbers, performing calculations, estimating, spatial difficulties. 


Difficulty or inability to retrieve the correct word from memory when needed.  It an affect speech, writing or both.


Dysgraphia is a deficiency in the ability to write or  impaired letter writing by hand.  


Those with dysgraphia may:

  • Lack basic spelling and grammar skills

  • Write the wrong word when formulating thoughts on paper

  • Make inappropriately sized and spaced letters

  • Write wrong or misspelled words despite instruction

  • Experience pain while writing

Some people may become extremely frustrated with writing, which can cause stress and stress related illnesses.

Impact of specific learning disabilities on a person

Many children and teenagers with unrecognised Specific Learning Disabilities are referred to mental health services because their behaviours are not understood. Their frustration can lead to violence, self-harm, or depression. They are often bullied and ostracised by their peers. They can be labelled as “Silly, Lazy, and Dumb”. It has been suggested that many of the people in our prisons are the product of an education system that has failed to recognise their SLD. Others can experience life-long prejudice.


The Seabrook McKenzie Centre provides a solution and hope for children with specific learning disabilities, helping to unlock a brighter future.

Further information

See our Resources page

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