Specific Learning Differences (SPLD)

Other Specific Learning Differences (SPLD)

Specific Learning Differences (SpLD) is a term used to describe a wide variety of learning differences. Many use the term specific learning differences in the same context as dyslexia. However, it is generally accepted that dyslexia is only one of the many learning differences.

Very rarely will an individual be affected by only one specific learning difference. Research shows that individuals can have more than one of these differences and as a result, no two individuals are the same. Specific learning differences typically affect the student’s ability to learn and can also impact on:

As a result, having a specific learning difference can have a significant impact on stress, anxiety and self-esteem of the student. Only those who have experienced the challenges of having a specific learning difference can truly understand the complications and difficulties that arise in a learning situation. Specialist teaching and identifying strategies to help students with learning differences succeed are challenges of all educators.

Shortcut to the definition:
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) | Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) | DyscalculiaDysgraphia | Dyspraxia | Intellectual Disability | Visual Processing Difficulties 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder originating from childhood. Characteristic features of ADHD are symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that often occur in two or more settings (e.g. at home or school; with friends; during other activities) and affect their performance in school as well as their relationships with others. Some symptoms of inattention may include being easily distracted, having difficulties sustaining attention on tasks, or having difficulties organising tasks and activities. Symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity may include running about or climbing in situations where they are expected to be seated, being unable to play or engage in activities quietly, having difficulties waiting their turn, interrupting or intruding on others.

DSM-5 | IMH | ICD-10 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by deficits in social communication and social interaction as well as restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviours, interests or activities. Individuals with ASD may also have language and/or intellectual impairments. The symptoms of ASD are typically present from early childhood (12 – 24 months of age), and the manifestation and severity of symptoms vary across individuals with ASD. 

DSM-5 Autism Resource Centre


Dyscalculia is a specific learning difficulty that primarily affects the mastery of number sense and number facts as well as accurate and fluent calculation. Individuals may have difficulties understanding and grasping number concepts. They may also have difficulties using mathematical concepts to solve problems.

DSM-5 Understood


(Specific Learning Difficulty in the written expression)Dysgraphia is a specific learning difficulty characterized by difficulties in handwritten expression, specifically in areas of spelling, grammar and punctuation, as well as the clarity and organisation of written expression. Additional signs of dysgraphia include messy handwriting, inconsistent spacing, poor spatial planning on paper, amongst others. Other issues that may co-occur with dysgraphia include dyslexia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

IDA | Understood | DSM-5


Dyspraxia is a neurological disorder which affects the planning, coordination, and sequencing of gross and/or fine motor movement. It may thus impact a diverse range of activities where motor skills are involved, such as walking, jumping, writing, and even speaking. It is a lifelong condition that may vary in its presentation across individuals and over an individual’s course of life.

NHS | Dyspraxia Foundation | DSM-5 

Intellectual Disability

Intellectual disability is a neurodevelopmental disorder that involves deficits in areas of cognitive functioning and adaptive functioning (e.g. difficulties with communication, self-care, social skills, safety). These deficits occur during the developmental period and are evident in childhood and adolescence.

American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities | IMH 

Visual Processing Difficulties

Visual processing difficulties affect how visual information (such as symbols, pictures and distances) is processed by the brain. It is different from sight or sharpness of vision, and cannot be corrected by glasses. The student may struggle to discriminate objects, judge distance, and have poor spatial awareness.

Cortiella, C., & Horowitz, S. H. (2014). The state of learning disabilities: Facts, trends and emerging issues. New York: National Center for Learning Disabilities.