What is a Specific Learning Disorder?

Updated: Jul 4, 2019

A Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) is a pattern of brain activity that makes it

more challenging for people with SLD to learn and/or use particular

academic skills in the ways that most other people do. These academic skills

include those in: language (oral or written), listening, thinking, speaking,

reading, writing, spelling, and/or mathematics. Students with SLD often have

at least average intelligence and can readily learn new knowledge and skills,

so long as they are taught in ways that suit how their brains process

information. Through Remediation, Accommodations, and Self-Advocacy,

individuals with SLD can be appropriately supported.


Supporting Individuals with SLD

Students with SLD are not identical in their learning needs, personal strengths, and day-to-day learning environments. Even when two students find the same task challenging (e.g., understanding what they read), they might be struggling for very different reasons (e.g.,

reduced working memory capacity, needing a longer time to process information). As such, a

“made to custom order” approach is best for enhancing the learning and wellbeing of

students with SLD - such as those that promote Remediation, Accommodations, and Self-

Advocacy.


Remediation

Remediation involves teaching or further developing skills. These skills might be related

to literacy and numeracy (e.g., reading words, counting, spelling) or other learning-related

behaviours (e.g., attention, emotional regulation). Research finds that Remediation efforts are most helpful when they (1) directly target the student’s area(s) of challenge, and (2) are provided in the early years of schooling (but can still benefit students later in life).


Accommodations

Accommodations (a.k.a. Adjustments or Special Provisions) are student-tailored strategies that allow students to access the mainstream curriculum in ways that best suit their learning

styles. Accommodations change how learning is experienced. They do not change what content is learned or tested.


Self-Advocacy

Students who: are aware of their personal strengths and weaknesses (knowing who they are) and the accommodations that they find useful (knowing what works) can voice these ideas to other people (communing personal needs) to gain their support and help. This is called self-advocacy and it is a lifelong skill that helps people experience personal success across

many activities and goals.


Examples of Remediation, Accommodation, and Self-Advocacy Strategies for Different Skills

When deciding what strategies are appropriate for supporting a particular student, it is important to consider the student’s personal strengths and weaknesses, current skills, desires, goals, circumstances, social and professional support systems (e.g., family, educators, friends, therapists), emotional wellbeing, and available resources (e.g., time, money, learning materials, school programs, tutoring and intervention services, and so on).


The examples listed in the table below are not exhaustive and there are many other remediation, accommodation, and self-advocacy strategies that might be more suitable for a particular student’s learning needs and style. Also, the table below does not list other

skills (e.g., Organisation, Attention) that could be addressed through Remediation, Accommodations, or Self-Advocacy and are important for learning and wellbeing.


Want to learn more?

The following websites and resources are intended for parents and/or professionals to develop their understanding about how to understand and support students with SLD.


Article by Andrea Sadusky and Dr Kate Jacobs

20th May 2019

© 2019 by Raise the Bar Psychology