Specific Learning Disorders 101

Specific Learning Disorders: Dyslexia, Dysgraphia & Dyscalculia

Have your heard of the term Specific Learning Disorders (SLD) before? How about dyslexia? Or dysgraphia and dyscalculia?

More and more people seem to be referring to SLDs and different disorders called dys-something-or-other. Knowing what they actually are is a different story. In this handy guide, we’ll break down all of these technical, clinical terms for you so you’ll understand just what these different disorders are about.

Specific learning disorders

Specific learning disorders are sometimes just referred to as learning disorders or learning disabilities. It’s important to note that SLDs are a clinical term and ascribed as a result of a diagnosis. Learning disabilities and other non-clinical terms are often used in educational environments but do not necessarily reflect an actual provided diagnosis.

An SLD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It most likely starts in children when they are school aged but for some individuals it’s only noticed and addressed way later, sometimes once they’re already an adult.

SLDs can result in one experiencing difficulties in three main different areas:

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Mathematics

People with an SLD may also have a disorder of another kind, such as ADHD or Autism Spectrum disorder.

The impacts on wellbeing

Of course, SLDs can make learning difficult and negatively impact a child’s ability to achieve in school and other academic areas.

Moreover, difficulties experienced in a school environment can also affect one’s psychological wellbeing and, if not addressed appropriately, impact further educational and employment opportunities.

Levels of SLD

Specific learning disorders present in different ways for different people. The level of severity of any particular SLD can vary from mild to severe.


A mild SLD can mean that one can compensate for difficulties experienced learning.


A moderate SLD may require some support or special teaching accommodations.


Severe SLDs often need ongoing, frequent and intensive support or teaching accommodations.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning disorder sometimes just referred to as a “reading disability”.

But it’s not just reading that can be affected. Dyslexia affects the part of the brain involved in the processing of letters, words and language. So people with dyslexia may struggle with aspects of spelling as well as reading.

In practice, this manifests in people struggling with any one or more of the following:

  • Matching letters and words with their corresponding sounds.
  • Recognising the syllables in a word.
  • Realising which words rhyme.
  • Understanding how to spell correctly.
  • Writing the letters in a word in the right order.

What is dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is a specific learning disorder that can be understood as an impairment in written expression.

People with dysgraphia can often struggle with one or more of a variety of aspects to do with writing.

  • Spelling
  • Punctuation
  • Handwriting
  • Grammar

People with dysgraphia can even struggle to express themselves in the written word.

In years gone by, occupational therapists used to diagnose dysgraphia as it was seen as related to fine motor skills checks. However, nowadays dysgraphia assessments are conducted by trained psychologists.

What is dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia or the learning disorder that causes an impairment in mathematics can affect one’s ability to use, comprehend and see numbers.

There are numerous difficulties one can face with dyscalculia, such as:

  • Having trouble completing math equations or calculations.
  • Miscomprehension of numbers and other math concepts.
  • Difficulty remembering math-related facts.
  • Struggling to reason and solve through mathematical problems.

Specific learning disorder assessments

Diagnosing a specific learning disorder requires a trained, qualified and professional therapist.

At One Central Health, our team are able to provide a number of learning and cognitive (IQ) assessments.

How does it work?

Step 1 – Contact us

Give the OCH team a call today on (08) 9344 1318 to book an initial appointment with one of our clinicians.

Step 2 – Initial appointment

When you attend your initial appointment, our clinician will guide you through your concerns and your or your child’s developmental history.

Step 3 – Assessment plan

Once we have all the information we need, our clinician will put together a custom assessment plan tailored to your needs. This plan will include references to the proposed SLD assessments.

Step 4 – Attend the assessments

Book your assessment with our reception staff and attend them on the day. Typically, an SLD assessment involves two separate 2-hour appointments.

Step 5 – Get your report

After the assessment, you’ll receive a report with all the findings, recommendations and strategies put together by the assessing clinician.

Step 6 – Feedback session

After you have received your report, we’ll invite you in to discuss the assessment’s findings, any relevant diagnoses, provide feedback and suggest an ongoing plan to address relevant concerns or issues.

Want more information?

If you’d like to find out more about dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia or specific learning disorders in general, you’ll find extra information at the links below:

Alternatively, get in touch with the One Central Health team today.

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