Dyslexia is an underlying information processing difficulty. It is sometimes called a Specific Learning Difference, or Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD), as it is known to affect particular areas of processing and it is unrelated to general ability.
In more detail:
We know that dyslexia is a developmental condition, with cognitive differences that manifest in childhood and persist through to adulthood. It is a complex condition in that the manifestations will not only change with development, but also according to the demands made on a person and the resources a person can bring to meet those demands.
Dyslexia is sometimes seen simply as a difficulty with reading and spelling, but in fact underperformance in literacy is usually just one of a number of indications which are associated with various underlying cognitive differences, notably in verbal short-term and working memory, in phonological skills, the skills which underpin the development of literacy, and in speed of information processing. Other dyslexia indicators can be poor organisational skills, difficulty in speaking succinctly, poor numeracy skills and a general difficulty with tasks which depend on sequencing and structure.
Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), also known in the UK as Dyspraxia, is at heart a developmental motor coordination difficulty.
In more detail:
Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) / Dyspraxia is a common disorder affecting movement and coordination in children, young people and adults with symptoms present since childhood. The coordination difficulties can impact on everyday skills and participation in education, work, and leisure activities. Difficulties may vary in their presentation and these may also change over time depending on environmental demands, life experience, and the support given.
The movement and coordination difficulties often persist in adulthood, although the non-motor difficulties may become more prominent as expectations and demands change over time.
As well as affecting the organisation of external movement, DCD / dyspraxia also affects organisation at the internal cognitive level, so the organisation and structuring of language, thought and ideas. Time management, planning, personal organisation, carrying out tasks at speed are common challenges.
Individuals with dyspraxia, as those with dyslexia, will normally benefit from appropriate recognition, reasonable adjustments and some form of specialist support such as tutoring or job coaching.
Dyscalculia affects the ability to understand the fundamentals of mathematics and to acquire arithmetical skills. Individuals affected will have difficulty with understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they learn to produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence.
In more detail:
Assessment may reveal that mathematical difficulties are caused by a range of other factors, such as the working memory difficulties of specific learning difficulties, or perhaps knowledge gaps through inconsistent or interrupted teaching, long periods of absence or mathematical anxiety and a lack of confidence in tackling mathematical calculations and problems. Difficulties learning number facts and procedures could be due to a reliance on rote learning and recall, areas known to be at risk for dyslexic people. There are differing opinions as to a definition of dyscalculia and discussions to reach a UK consensus are currently underway.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, impulsiveness, an inability to inhibit responses, short attention span, restlessness and being easily distracted.
Many individuals with ADHD also have other specific learning difficulties. ADHD goes well beyond the common issues with concentration and attention which are seen in other specific learning difficulties. ADHD may also overlap with anxiety, depression and insomnia.
In more detail:
ADHD is recognised by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). The presence of ADHD affects self- esteem, academic and work performance, and the quality and duration of relationships. This is particularly the case as it is frequently associated with the presence of other conditions including mood disorders (especially depression), anxiety disorders, and learning disorders such as dyslexia and dyspraxia.
Research has shown that adults with ADHD tend to have problems in any combination of the following ‘executive tasks’ or ‘executive functions’, according to Thomas Brown, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University of Medicine.
- Getting organised and setting priorities.
- Avoiding procrastination.
- Sustaining attention, yet shifting attention when needed.
- Sustaining effort and remaining alert.
- Coping with the impact of emotions.
- Inefficient working memory.
ADHD can affect any number of activities, particularly where sustained and organised attention is needed and there is no demand for an immediate response. ADHD is conceptualised both as a specific learning difficulty and a neurological medical condition and it also a developmental condition.
Visual difficulties, or visual disturbance belong to a condition which is not often identified in standard eye tests, but they can cause physical discomfort when reading, and for example, text might appear blurred or unstable in some way and it can result in skipping of words and lines.
In more detail:
Visual difficulties that overtly affect performance will typically give rise to symptoms of discomfort and/or visual disturbance that are usually, though not always, associated with the activity of reading or sustained study of visual material at near working distances.
Many learning activities involve extensive use of visual material that requires intensive study. This means that those who experience problems with their vision are likely to face difficulties in the learning environment, whether or not they have a specific learning difficulty.
If visual symptoms occur frequently or persistently then further assessment should be undertaken by an optometrist even if there has been a recent sight test. The primary need is always for correct diagnosis and management of visual problems, some of which may be due to pathology. At Dyslexia Assessment & Consultancy our assessors will undertake screening to establish whether there are visual symptoms that might warrant further investigation, but we would not identify or diagnose a visual stress condition.
There is no established connection between any form of SpLD and the condition known as visual stress, nor do we know if visual difficulties have a particularly high prevalence in SpLD.
Those identified as having visual symptoms that adversely affect their ability to study and work should be referred to a qualified, registered professional. The professionals best placed to assess and treat the causes of visual symptoms are optometrists, but optometrists offering comprehensive assessment and management of problems involving binocular vision (accommodation and convergence) disorders, and visual stress, in addition to the standard sight-test comprising refraction and ocular health assessment.
Specialist optometrists are ‘behavioural optometrists’. The term ‘behavioural optometrist’ is used to describe optometrists who practise with a particular interest in vision development, and in how vision affects the performance of tasks in everyday life. In the UK, those who practise behavioural optometry are represented by the British Association of Behavioural Optometrists (BABO). The specialised interests of behavioural optometrists typically include the assessment and management of binocular-oculomotor problems and visual difficulties.
The Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) provides government funding for disabled students studying on a course of Higher Education.
A full diagnostic assessment carried out by a practitioner with a current practising certificate is required for evidence of a specific learning difficulty.
The allowances cover some of the additional costs incurred because of a disability such as dyslexia and dyspraxia – as well as conditions such as physical disabilities, mental health problems or long term illnesses.
In more detail:
The DSA can help with costs for example, of the following:
- specialist equipment, for example a computer if needed because of the disability, and specialist software programmes
- non-medical helpers, for example, specialist study skills tutoring
- specialist mentoring
- other disability-related costs of studying
DSAs do not cover disability-related costs a student would have if they were not attending a course, or costs that any student might have.
Once eligibility for the DSA is confirmed, the funding body, for example, Student Finance England will normally ask the student to contact an assessment centre where a ‘Needs Assessment’ discussion would take place to work out what support was required.
www.discoverdsa.com demonstrates easy to follow YouTube clips on how to apply for DSA.
A booklet called ‘Bridging the Gap’, a guide to the Disabled Students’ Allowance, can be downloaded from the website.
Access to Work is a publicly funded programme aimed at supporting disabled people, including those with dyslexia, dyspraxia and other neuro-divergent conditions to take up or stay in work. A grant can pay for practical support to help employees stay in work, or provide support for the self-employed.
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Employers have a legal duty under the Equality Act to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ or changes to make sure that their disabled employees are not substantially disadvantaged in carrying out their job.
Employees need to talk to their employer before applying for Access to Work. If the employer’s adjustments do not provide the necessary support, then Access to Work will offer the further support needed based on individual need, which may include a grant to help cover the costs of practical support in the workplace.
An Access to Work grant will provide personalised support to disabled people who are:
- in paid employment
- self employed
- supported interns
- doing self-directed work experience
- Jobcentre plus promoted work trials
Support is also available for job interview, or if a person has a job offer letter, or a job start date.
For more information see:
https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work where there are also separate factsheets for employers and for employees.
For those in Northern Ireland, see:
Access to Work
Access to Work Information Sheet
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Adults
Autism / Asperger Syndrome
Asperger Syndrome: seeing the world differently
’Assistive Technology: Overview of Software and Technology for individuals with dyslexia / neurodiversity
Accommodating SpLDs in Court Hearings- Melanie Jameson