girl reaching for library bookSpecific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) are neurological conditions. Core difficulties exist in the areas of processing speed, auditory short term/working memory and visual/auditory perception. Depending on which SpLD is being considered, additional difficulties may be present. These difficulties can have a detrimental effect on the efficiency of some life skills and academic skills. However, students can often compensate for these problems by being taught to use other areas of strength or by using technology. Dyslexic students may also have problems with phonological awareness, which is the recognition and manipulation of sound patterns. This affects literacy accuracy and speed. 

A lot of people use SpLD interchangeably with dyslexia (a difficulty with words), but dyslexia is only one of a larger group of difficulties that include:

  • dyscalculia: a difficulty with mathematical calculations
  • dyspraxia (DCD): a difficulty with organising and executing motor tasks or thoughts
  • AD(H)D as an SpLD. A difficulty that affects concentration, attention, memory, impulsivity and other behaviours. It can occur with or without hyperactivity. This is related to but differs from AD(H)D as a medical condition.

There is a large variation in the pattern of strengths and weaknesses in the SpLD profile and some individuals will have learnt to cope better than others, therefore it is difficult to apply generalisations.

Should an SpLD assessment be completed before coming to Imperial College?

This can be useful as it might speed up your support but there are some issues with taking this step. The report must very closely adhere to the SASC guidance. Often, a slight omission of a key test or data set can lead to an assessment report being rejected. This is frustrating and costly but to ensure equity and validity of assessment, it is very necessary. However, temporary support and exam arrangements can sometimes be put in place pending re-assessment.

How are SpLDs assessed at Imperial College?

Specific Learning Difficulties must be identified by either a psychologist or an assessor with a PATOSS practising certificate. Assessments take the form of a series of standardised tasks (or tests) and an interview. The student receives a report detailing the results within fifteen working days of the assessment.

What do I do if I think I have might have an SpLD?

Before being referred for an assessment, students need to come in and meet with an Advisor for an initial screeening. More details about the screening and assessment process can be found on our screening page.

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Support and advice outside of the College