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Introduction

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What are specific learning difficulties?

  • 6 Key Points
  • ? A specific learning difficulty is an unexplained condition, occurring in a child of average or above average intelligence, characterized by a significant delay in one or more areas of learning.
  • ? Each child with a specific learning difficulty is unique.
  • ? The validity of any diagnosis rests on the expertise of the person, or persons, making the diagnosis.

Angela is 10 years old. Her parents describe her as a ‘bright’ girl. Nevertheless, Angela’s teacher has told her parents that her reading ability is well below that of the rest of the class. Testing by a psychologist found Angela’s reading to be at a seven-year-old level and her intelligence to be normal. Her vision has been tested and is also normal. She is well motivated and well adjusted emotionally. Neither the psychologist, nor her doctor, could find any reason why she should have difficulty reading. Her parents are puzzled and concerned.

Michael is eight years old. He is a healthy, energetic boy whom his parents describe as ‘an active, outdoor boy—always on the go’. They have learned to give him scope for burning off his excess energy at home. But problems have now arisen at school. His writing is illegible, and the teacher complains that he never sits still. He is making little progress in school work, and continually getting into trouble for being disruptive in class. A psychologist has found that he is unable to form legible letters, despite making great efforts to do so. She tested his intelligence and found it to be in the normal range. A doctor has examined him and found no cause for his difficulties.

This is a book about children like Angela and Michael: intelligent children who have a significant and unexplained difficulty in learning.

Each child with such difficulties is unique, but they have enough in common with one another for their condition to be summarized by one collective term. I shall use the term ‘specific learning difficulties’ as an umbrella term for this whole group of disorders.

 
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