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About Specific Learning Difficulties

Specific learning difficulties are defined as; ‘organising or learning difficulties which restrict the individual’s competencies in information processing, in motor skills and working memory, so causing limitations in some, or all, of the skills of speech, reading, spelling, writing, essay writing, numeracy and behaviour’ (Dyslexia Institute 1989).

Specific learning difficulties include

Dyslexia impacts at least 6.8% of the students studying at The University of Salford.
Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty related to language. These difficulties can affect literacy and other areas such as memory and organisation skills.

Dyslexia is not related to intelligence, it is often balanced by other strengths, and can range from mild to severe in nature. Approximately 40% of students with dyslexia are identified as having dyslexia whilst at University.

Further information and how to be assessed for Dyslexia

The term dyspraxia comes from the word praxis, which means 'doing, acting'. Dyspraxia affects the planning of what to do and how to do it. It is associated with problems of perception, language and thought.

Dyspraxia is thought to affect up to 10% of the population and up to 2% severely. Men were traditionally thought to be four times more likely to be affected than women, however this may reflect an imbalance in diagnosis rather than reflecting real life. Dyspraxia sometimes runs in families.

Dyscalculia is a specific learning difficulty in mathematics. Like dyslexia, dyscalculia can be caused by a visual perceptual deficit. Dyscalculia refers specifically to the difficulty performing operations in maths or arithmetic. Along with dyslexia, the extent to which you can be affected varies tremendously in each individual. Like dyslexia there is no single set of signs that characterises all dyslexics, there is no one cause of dyscalculia.


  • Understanding the signs: +, -, / and x
  • Adding numbers
  • Subtracting numbers
  • Confusion with mathematical symbols (plus/minus etc)
  • The words, plus, add, add-together
  • Reversing numbers 15 for 51 etc
  • Transposing numbers i.e., 364 - 634
  • Times tables
  • Mental arithmetic
  • Telling the time
  • Inability to follow directions
  • Difficulties with mathematics, calculations and learning number facts such as multiplication

Attention Deficit Disorder
(Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
It is estimated that from 3% to 10% of the population has the condition known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

No one knows exactly what causes ADD/ADHD. Scientific evidence suggests that it is genetically transmitted in many cases and results from a chemical imbalance or deficiency in certain neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that help the brain regulate behaviour. Whilst this is more common in children, ADD/ADHD can continue into adulthood.

Possible difficulties faced by a student with ADD/ADHD at Salford University

  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in coursework, work, or other activities
  • Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or leisure activities
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish work related to study, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behaviour or failure to understand instructions)
  • Difficulty organizing tasks and activities;
  • Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as lectures, practicals or written work)
  • Loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
  • Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  • Forgetful in daily activities

Irlen Syndrome
Irlen Syndrome is thought to affect about 50% of students with specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia. The root of Irlen’s is in perceptual problems caused by light sensitivity.

Students with this condition often benefit from the use of coloured overlays or coloured glasses. The overlays or glasses work by filtering out light which causes distortions to print. Problems also appear to be worse with black print on white paper, incidentally the most common format.

Possible difficulties faced by a student with Irlen Syndrome at Salford University

  • Letters merging together
  • Letters appearing in the wrong order
  • Twirling letters
  • Words being fuzzy
  • Words jumping about
  • Difficulties in reading and keeping your place
  • Excessive rubbing and blinking of eyes
  • Words appearing as a jumbled puzzle
  • Words appearing faded