Identification of specific learning difficulties - SPELD NSW

Supporting children and adults with specific learning difficulties

Identification of specific learning difficulties

How to identify learning difficulties?

Dyslexia is a difficulty learning to read.

Children and adults with dyslexia often have difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition and may also have difficulties with spelling, writing, reading comprehension.

Dyslexia is the most common learning difficulty effecting between 5-10% of people. Dyslexia also often runs in families. Dyslexia does not impact on a person’s intelligence and is not caused by vision difficulties.

The technical name for dyslexia is a specific learning disorder in reading. Dyslexia is a brain-based (neurological) disorder or disability. People with dyslexia have difficulty working with the sounds in language (phonology) and the written form of language (orthography).

How is dyslexia identified?

Dyslexia is diagnosed by a psychologist. The psychologist will investigate learning strengths and difficulties.

Before a psychologist is able to make a diagnosis of a specific learning disorder in reading (or dyslexia), it is essential that the child or adult being assessed has received at least six months of intervention focused on improving their reading skills.

Before seeking an assessment or diagnosis of dyslexia it is also important to check eyesight and hearing.

How do you support a person with dyslexia?

Students with dyslexia can improve their reading and spelling skills. Such students benefit from explicit and structured instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics (systematic synthetic phonics) along with the other essentials skills for reading (oral language, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension).

Students with dyslexia will often need more opportunities to practise reading and spelling and so can benefit from working with learning support teachers, systematic synthetic phonics intervention programs or working with experienced tutors or speech pathologists. Decodable readers are an essential tool for students with dyslexia while they are learning to read.

Students and adults with dyslexia can also benefit from adjustments made to their school or work environments. Such adjustments include:

  • the use of audio books and text to speech software;
  • limits to the amount of reading and writing required;
  • assistance with spelling, writing and editing for example, predictive spelling, scaffolded writing tasks, speech to text software

More information about dyslexia

SPELD NSW Dyslexia InfoSheet
AUSPELD Understanding Learning Difficulties: A Guide for parents
AUSPELD Specific Learning Disorders Flowchart
International Dyslexia Organisation: Fact Sheets


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