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What is a Specific Learning Disability?

The above diagram shows the traditional view of Learning Disabilies

A Specific Learning Disability (SLD) is a neurological (brain-based) disorder of one or more of the basic psychological processes. These processes are involved in understanding or in using language (spoken or written) that may manifest itself in difficulty to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations.


Specific Learning Disabilities include conditions such as perceptual disabilities (visual and auditory perception) but do not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.


A SLD often shows up in issues with direction (e.g. left, right; up down, underneath, beside), sequencing (e.g. the order in which letters occur in a word, or the steps in a maths problem), short-term memory retention and inefficient working memory, as well as a drastic discrepancy between intellectual ability and academic achievement.


Although it is a permanent condition, intervention teaches children to manage and often overcome their disability. Because of the plasticity of the brain, remedial teaching is able to “re-wire” the brain. This involves time, correct intervention and hard work.

















The above diagram shows the current theory regarding Learning Disabilies

Tier 1: Primary Intervention

Proactive identification of at-risk students and catching students in need before they fail.

Effective management.

Approximately 80% of students should achieve at expected levels.

Screening, regular assessments, progress monitoring and group interventions are provided for all students.

Identified at-risk students receive additional instruction within the classroom for a period of time.

Tier 2

More intense, targeted intervensions for students who have not responded to Tier 1 intervention.

R-B interventions provided in addition to core instruction - small groups with similar needs.

Tier 2 will provide the appropriate level of support for approximately 15% of the school population.

Applied for a limited time (around 12 weeks, but with high intensity). Students are frequently monitored to determine the effectiveness of the intervension.

Tier 3

Intensive, individualised interventions that specifically target the skill deficits of the students who do not adequately respond to Tiers 1 and 2.

Students receive intensive, individual instructions by well-trained teachers who know how to implement the intervension programmes.

The student is identified as having an SLD.

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