SLD Symptoms

Research suggests dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia have a neurological basis, and may also have a genetic component.  While estimates of prevalence vary, it is thought that 5 to 10% of children may be affected, with diagnoses ranging along a continuum from 'mild' to 'severe'. 

In essence, dyslexia refers to a pattern of learning difficulties characterised by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding, and poor spelling.   Underlying an SLD is generally a deficit in one or more of the basic psychological processes, especially working memory, processing speed or phonological processing.  Ann impairment in these cognitive processes impacts the ease and efficiency of symbolic learning, which is required in tasks such as learning sound-symbol associations, memorising maths facts.    

The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as a:

“specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

Common signs of an SLD in reading (dyslexia)

 Symptoms can vary not only from person to person, but also across age groups.  The British Dyslexia Association provides an extensive list of symptoms, organised by age group.  Common signs in primary school aged children, as identified by the Ministry of Education NZ, include children who:

  • are slow to identify the connections between sounds and letters
  • don’t recognise familiar words
  • constantly make inconsistent spelling errors, for example, spell a word several ways in one piece
    of writing
  • leave letters out of words or  write them in the wrong order and can’t see the errors
  • have good ideas but take longer than average to do written work
  • make errors in reading or writing that involve reversals or confusions with words (for example, saw/was, stops/spots, does/goes)
  • read very slowly and consistently
  • make decoding errors
  • have difficulty decoding single words in isolation
  • show frustration with, or avoidance of, text tasks
  • appear to be fatigued by the effort needed to complete a reading or writing task
  • lack confidence and appear to be developing a poor self-image

Link to information on screening for dyslexia

 A person with dysgraphia has difficulty with the process of writing.  It may affect the mechanics of writing, or the ability to organise a written response, or both.

Common signs of an SLD in writing (dysgraphia)

  • Difficulty with fine motor skills which may show as trouble forming letters shapes and illegible handwriting
  • Tight, awkward, or painful grip on a pencil
  • Difficulty following a line or staying within margins
  • Unusual posture, or paper position, while writing
  • Poor spelling, including unfinished words or missing words or letters
  • Trouble with sentence structure or following rules of grammar when writing, but not when speaking
  • Difficulty organizing or articulating thoughts on paper
  • Pronounced difference between the ability to speak about, and write about, a topic

Link to information on screening for dysgraphia

 Dyscalculia is more than just 'trouble with maths', it is a difficulty grasping fundamental numerical concepts. 

 Common signs of an SLD in maths (dyscalculia)

Common signs of dyscalculia include difficulty:

  • Grasping the concept of quantities such as biggest vs smallest
  • Understanding that the numeral 5 is the same as the word five, and that these both mean five items
  • Remembering math facts such as multiplication tables
  • Handling money and calculating change
  • Estimating time, speed and distance
  • Telling left from right
  • Reading a clock

Link to information on screening for dyscalculia