Manifestation of SLDs

Every student wants to be academically successful but with a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) students cannot show their true potential and they are often hugely frustrated. Children react and act differently to cope with this frustration. Some become withdrawn, some act as the class clown and others develop all different kinds of behavioural issues like they just can’t be bothered or don’t want to cooperate. PLEASE NEVER LABEL ANY STUDENT WITH these inaccurate terms. If a child underachieves there will be a reason. Be willing to walk the extra mile and help this child find out why.

Each child is unique and would have an individual profile of difficulties. The lists below are by no means complete and is just an indication of some of the impediments a student may exhibit. (For a more extensive list, please see the Learning Disabilities Checklist of the American National Centre for Learning Disabilities.)

It is highly recommended that a child be assessed for SLDs when six or more of the following warning signs in their age range are observed:

Pre-school and Early Primary (4 – 6 year olds)


·         Jumble sounds in speech (pasgetti/spaghetti)

·         Confuse words signifying direction in space or time (up/down, yesterday/tomorrow)

·         Forget or confuse the word for known objects (chair/table)

·         Delayed speech development

·         Unusual speech patterns (frequent hesitations, stammering)

·         Difficulty learning nursery rhymes (the importance of nursery rhymes)

·         Difficulty learning rhyming words

·         Difficulty learning and remembering names of letters

·         Problems with pre-reading skills:

·         May enjoy being read to, but shows little interest in letters or words


·         Difficulty getting dressed (buttoning, shoes on the correct feet)

·         Clumsy (Excessive tripping, bumping into things, falling)

·         Difficulty with catching, kicking or throwing a ball (eye-hand coordination)

·         Difficulty hopping and / or skipping (gross motor skills)


·         Difficulty with behaviour or learning

·         Difficulty remembering and following instructions / directions

·         Extremely low tolerance for frustration

·         Unhappy soon after starting school


·         Difficulty with clapping a simple rhythm

·         Expression and articulation

·         Sequencing problems in counting, retelling of events or stories

·         Family history of learning difficulties

Primary Years (6 – 12)


·         Confusing letters / numbers with similar appearances, e.g. b,d,q,p; 6,9

·         Frequent reversals, e.g. saw/was

·         Difficulty remembering sight words

·         Mistakes or omissions when reading easy small words, e.g. and, from

·         Spelling phonetically, e.g. thanc you for teching me to rede fluwintle; kof; ghoti

·         Letters or words on the page move/swim/become blurred

·         Develop strategies to avoid reading or writing

·         Complain of dizziness, headaches, stomachaches

·         Difficulty with sequencing e.g. days of the week, letters of the alphabet, months

·         Understand that words are made up by sounds


·         Neglect

·         Trouble remembering basic facts

·         Inconsistent in calculations

·         Maths language problems, e.g. before, after, next, sum of, plus, addition

·         Difficulty with verbal receptive language (working memory)

·         Cannot explain how he got the correct answer

·         Maths symbols +, x, -, ÷

·         Poor number sense

·         Struggle to understand time, time concepts

·         Difficulty with reading analogue time

·         Poor rote memory e.g. counting in 3s, counting backwards

·         Sequencing difficulties


·         Does not pay attention / fidgeting / easily irritable

·         Does not follow instructions (sensory overload)

·         Slow

·         Copying mistakes

·         Deliberate negative / attention seeking behaviour – frustration

·         Withdraw in the classroom

·         Becomes the class clown

·         Headache / stomach pain

·         Develop strategies to avoid going to school


·         Have to read and reread material to understand it

·         Extreme difficulty managing and keeping track of homework assignments

·         Lose belongings

·         Unaware of deadlines

·         Difficulty in learning a second language

·         The seemingly clever child underachieves

·         Inconsistencies

·         Lack self-esteem

·         Call themselves names like “I’m thick”, “stupid”

·         Family history of learning difficulties

Secondary School Years


·         Often has difficulty in finding the right words and therefore uses non-specific words, e.g. stuff, things

·         Pronunciation of longer, more difficult words often problematic, e.g. phonological

·         Laborious reading: slow, loses place, omissions and inserts, lacking comprehension, misses a line or re-read a line

·         Does not like reading aloud

·         Struggles to decode therefore uses context to “guess” words

·         Misread words e.g. from, form; horse, house

·         Often misread word endings

·         Finds it hard to summarise a paragraph into a keyword

·         Huge discrepancies between spoken and written language

·         Misspells words that should seem to be easy at this stage

·         Phonetic spelling, e.g. fluently, fluwintle

·         Handwriting often laborious and slow

·         Untidy handwriting and untidy written work due to cross-outs and “editing”

·         Has difficulty in planning written work

·         Copying from the board or a book holds great difficulty


·         Remembering lists of instructions and often only remembers the first part of large volumes of verbal instructions

·         Misunderstands complex instructions

·         Memory difficulties affect retrieval and recall

·         Often has problems in the area of working memory

·         Works slower than most of the class

·         Often needs extra time for assessments and assignments

·         Can some days execute a learning tasks and the next day not able to

·         May exhibit attention problems

·         Tires easily because they use more energy to process information

·         Homework is often a very problematic area because of tiredness and time limitations

·         Frustration levels low

·         Often becomes withdrawn or acts out as the class clown

·         May drop out of school

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