Specific Learning Difficulty

Specific Learning Difficulty - what is it?


The term ‘Specific Learning Difficulty’ (SLD) refers to a difference, challenge or

difficulty people have with particular aspects of learning.


4,192 students or 60% of the students population registered with disabilities in Higher Education in Ireland have a Specific Learning Difficulty (AHEAD, 2011).

Categories of Specific Learning Difficulties



Students going to college with dyslexia may have a difficulty with the use of both written and oral language. This is due in part to processing difficulties, including visual and auditory perceptual skills, and is not necessarily related to prior education. They may also find that some learning tasks cause concern due to difficulties with short-term memory, concentration and organisation. Dyslexia varies between individuals, and can occur in people of all abilities. Its effects on study can be modified by the use of a variety of approaches and strategies.  People with dyslexia often have individual talents as well as individual difficulties. 


Dyspraxia/ Developmental Coordination Disorder

Dyspraxia is a developmental condition that affects coordination.  Students going to college with dyspraxia may have their movement, thoughts and perception impacted and dyspraxia can affect speech, fine motor movement, whole body movement and hand-eye coordination, sequencing and organisation.  It is quite possible for dyspraxia to overlap with Dyslexia, Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD.  



Dysgraphia is a developmental disorder that targets motor skills and affects a person's ability to write. The word simply means difficulty expressing yourself in writing. This difficulty often affects a person ’s coordination and writing skills but does not reflect a person’s intelligence.



Persons with dyscalculia have difficulties with mathematics and mental arithmetic but possess normal language abilities.  Common mistakes are made such as omitting and reversing numbers and transposing errors (to move (a term) from one side of an algebraic equation to the other side, reversing its sign to maintain equality) in algebra. Abstract concepts such as time and direction, sequences of events and memory for names are also features of dyscalculia.  A person with dyscalculia can become confused by timetables and lack a good sense of direction.


Audio Processing Disorder

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder, describes difficulties in the way that students process auditory (i.e. sound) information.  Students with Auditory Processing Disorder usually have normal hearing, but experience a difficulty in processing the sound information that is heard.  This leads to difficulties in recognising and interpreting sounds and in particular speech sounds (the sounds of language).

Supports available through DSS

  • The Disability Support Service has a specific support programme to enable students with Specific Learning Difficulties to access the learning environment. Please click here for further information
  • When the student registers with the Disability Support Service they receive a detailed needs assessment report outlining their supports and accommodations
  • It is a collaborative document between the disability advisor and the students and parts of the document are circulated to the academic department 
  • The Disability Support Service will also put in place, exam accommodations, assistive technology, and should the student require, act as an advocate on their behalf.


Reasonable Accommodations

  • Technology -Allow students to use laptops and other aids in the classroom such as Dictaphones. If the student struggles to complete legible work by hand or struggles to maintain concentration while writing then the use of these simple tools will aid the student to be more actively engaged in the class safe in the knowledge that they are not missing anything.
  • Reading lists and Lecture notes - Where possible provide lecture notes on Blackboard in advance and provide annotated prioritised reading lists.
  • Notification of Dyslexia/SLD Sticker– The use of a this sticker is provided in examinations where the student may not use technology to check spelling and grammar and does not have the opportunity to have their work proof read.

Recommendations for Examination Accommodations

  • Extra Time – 10 minutes per hour.
  • Notification of Dyslexia/SLD Sticker
  • Use of a computer
  • Scribe and/or Reader if necessary
  • Use of an Electronic Reader

Disability Support Service

Seirbhís Tacaíochta do Dhaoine faoi Mhíchumas

South Lodge, UCC, College Road, Cork