There are five specific learning difficulties... There are five specific learning difficulties...

Students will come to the University with existing diagnoses of a specific learning difficulty, others will find that the strategies they have adopted in earlier educational settings cannot be successfully applied to University level work (and this can become apparent from Undergraduate to Postgraduate Research level study).

Students in the latter group can be assessed at University and receive support in the form of assistive technologies and specialist study skills tuition to help them to develop their strategies to meet their study skills development needs.

If tutors/lecturers consider that a student may be dyslexic they should signpost the student to Student Services and suggest that they make an appointment to meet with an Adviser to discuss this possibility.  Students should contact reception on 01603 592761 to make an appointment.

Tutors/lecturers may find that students with specific learning difficulties will seek additional support for learning from time to time. Clear instruction and feedback on key areas for skills development are very helpful.

The Assessment Process

The assessment process comprises a triage meeting with a Student Services Disability Adviser to discuss the challenges the student is facing with their study skills, complete any relevant documentation and advise on the assessment process. The second stage is a 2 hour screening appointment to determine if the student is likely to have a specific learning difficulty and, if so, what this may be. If the student is found to be likely to have a specific learning difficulty they will then have an appointment with an Educational Psychologist.  Students who may have an autism spectrum condition will have an appointment with a Psychiatrist. The assessment of specific learning difficulties follows national standards and guidelines and all appointments take place on campus.

Dyslexia Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a spectrum condition. Students may not be effected in all the areas listed below and the level of impact will vary between the various skills and abilities.

Key skills and abilities impacted by dyslexia:

  • Phonological awareness (understanding the components that make up the sound of words)

  • Pronunciation

  • Spelling, grammar, syntax

  • Expressing ideas in writing

  • Short-term memory (recall of sequences of information for short periods of time)

  • Cognitive processing speed

  • Handwriting and other fine motor skills

  • Reading speed

  • Reading comprehension

  • Taking notes in lectures

  • Planning and organisation

Dyslexia can cause students significant frustration and anxiety. These are often caused by the additional demands on time made by slower reading speed and longer times to write than peers will take. Having the ideas and knowledge in your mind, but having difficulty in expressing and conveying this is academic writing is often the frustrating factor. Indeed, students are often considered as potentially dyslexic because of the difference between their verbal expressions of ideas and understanding and their writing.

Further information can be found on the British Dyslexia Association website and there is also a basic screening tool that students can complete free of charge to identify whether they might be dyslexic:

Dyspraxia Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia (also called Development Co-ordination Disorder - DCD) is a spectrum condition. Some students’ dyspraxia will be manifest predominantly in difficulties with fine and gross motor skills. At University, this will present with difficulties with handwriting speed and legibility and, if they are studying a subject with practical skills involvement (e.g. lab. work), then this will also be affected. Motor dyspraxia cannot be assessed via Student Services. Students should be signposted to their G.P.


As with all specific learning difficulties, the effects of dyspraxia will vary from person to person.

Key skills and abilities impacted by dyspraxia:

  • Difficulty with organising the content and sequence of language

  • Unclear speech difficulties with pronunciation

  • Tendency to lose the place while reading

  • Cannot look quickly and effectively from one object to another (for example, looking from a PowerPoint presentation to a note book)

  • Poor visual perception

  • Sensory sensitivity

  • Lack of awareness of body position in space and spatial relationships.

  • Little sense of time, speed, distance or weight.

  • Difficulty in planning and organising thought

  • Poor memory, especially short-term memory.

  • Can be messy and cluttered

  • Poor sequencing causes problems with maths, reading and spelling and writing

  • Difficulty with copying sounds, writing, movements, proofreading

  • Difficulty in following instructions, especially more than one at a time

  • Difficulty with concentration. May be easily distracted

  • Difficulty with multi-tasking

  • Difficulty in picking up non-verbal signals or in judging tone or pitch of voice in themselves and or others. Tendency to take things literally.

  • Slow to adapt to new or unpredictable situations.

  • Tendency to be easily frustrated

  • Tendency to get stressed, depressed and anxious

From the above you will see that there are overlaps between dyslexia and dyspraxia. The screening and assessment tools used enable expert staff to determine whether a student is dyslexic, dyspraxic or both.

For a diagnosis of dyspraxia to be made, information is needed about childhood symptoms and behaviours and so students are asked to identify an ‘informant’ who can report childhood symptomology and behaviours.

Further information can be found at website:

AD(H)D - attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder AD(H)D - attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder

AD(H)D is usually picked up in childhood. As a child the individual

• is unusually over-active

• gets distracted all the time, cannot stick to doing something for any length of time

• is impulsive, and does things on the spur of the moment without thinking

• has great difficult in concentrating.

It tends to get better with age but can continue into adulthood. The over-activity usually declines, but impulsivity, poor concentration and risk-taking can increase. These can interfere with work, learning and getting on with other people. Depression, anxiety feelings and low self-esteem are more common in adults with ADHD.  ADD is the same but without the over-activity.

Students with AD(H)D

• May get easily distracted and find it hard to take notice of details, particularly with things they find boring.

• Find it hard to listen to other people – they may finish their sentences for them, interrupt, or just say things at the wrong time.

• Find it hard to follow instructions.

• Find it hard to organise themselves and complete tasks

• Find it hard to wait or sit still for long periods

• May be forgetful and tend to lose or misplace things.

• May feel restless or edgy, have difficulty turning thoughts off and find stress hard to handle.

• Tend to impulsivity

Unlike other specific learning difficulties, AD(H)D can be treated with medication. If this is a route students wish to explore, they need a referral from their G.P. to a psychiatric service. The Educational Psychologists who work via the Student Support Service can diagnose AD(H)D but cannot prescribe.  As with dyspraxia, diagnosis requires information about childhood behaviours and symptoms.

For further information please see:

dyscalculia dyscalculia

Presently there is no standard diagnostic test for dyscalculia. Diagnosis is made on the basis of clinical interview and the experience of the Educational Psychologist. Sometimes it can be difficult to disentangle problems with early mathematics learning from those generated by a specific learning difficulty.

Some of the key dyscalculia signs are:

• Poor sense of number and estimating.

• Difficulty in remembering ‘basic’ facts, despite many hours of practice/rote learning.

• Difficulty in understanding place value and the role of zero.

• Slower to perform calculations.

• Forgetting mathematical procedures, especially as they become more complex, for example ‘long’ division.

• Addition is often the default operation. The other operations are usually very poorly  executed (or avoided altogether).

• Weak mental arithmetic skills.

• High levels of mathematics anxiety.

   (taken from the British Dyslexia Association website)

For further information please see website:

dysgraphia dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is not simply a difficulty with producing handwriting. It has been identified as a neurological condition that can be caused by a language disorder or form of ataxia (difficulty with fine motor skills)

Signs of dysgraphia:

  • mixture of upper/lower case letters

  • irregular letter sizes and shapes

  • unfinished letters

  • odd writing grip

  • many spelling mistakes (sometimes)

  • pain when writing

  • decreased or increased speed of writing and copying

  • general illegibility

  • pain while writing

Most students who have dysgraphia have been diagnosed prior to University entrance. Use of computers for writing can now alleviate many of the challenges previously experienced by those with dysgraphia although students may have persistent difficulties with writing in whatever format and their verbal skills will probably exceed their written skills.

For further information please see: