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There are a number of specific learning disabilities that have the potential to impact on a student's school performance:

  • Dyslexia - a learning difference in reading (and spelling)

  • Dygraphia - a spcific learning difference in written expression

  • Dyscalculia - a learning difference in mathematics

  • Developmental language disorder - difficulty talking and/or understanding language


Dyslexia is a learning difference (accounting for 80% of all students identified as having a specific learning difference). Dyslexia affects a child’s ability to develop language skills, particularly reading and spelling. Dyslexia is not a problem of intelligence, laziness or vision.

Dyslexia is common. Dyslexia often runs in families and evidence suggests that at least

10-15% of the population are on the dyslexic continuum.

Dyslexia is on a continuum. Dyslexia occurs on a continuum from mild to severe and each child with dyslexia will have a unique combination of strengths and weaknesses.

Dyslexia is lifelong. But, with the right support people with dyslexia can get better at reading and thrive. Early identification and intervention are crucial to ensuring children are on a positive pathway.

Dyslexia causes difficulty with decoding words and their meanings, along with problems such as auditory and visual perception, planning and organizing, short-term memory and concentration. These things can make it very difficult to follow multiple instructions, turn thoughts into words and finish work on time. In other words - school can be a huge challenge!

A student with dyslexia will have a particular pattern of strengths and weaknesses which indicate a dyslexic profile. The central difficulty for a student with dyslexia is to convert letter symbols to their correct sound (decode) and convert sounds to their correct written symbol (spell).



Dyslexia is a persistent and unexpected difficulty with reading and spelling. Evidence-based, explicit, multi-sensory instruction in synthetic phonics (letter names/sounds) is critical. This approach is consistent with National Inquiry into Reading (2005) findings regarding the most effective methods for teaching reading to all children.


Early identification and intervention is vital.


Importantly, "if you get it right for children with dyslexia, you get it right for all" and approaches and adjustments that benefit dyslexic students can produce great results for the whole class.

Classic indicators


While each child is different and will present with varying difficulties (and may in fact be great at some of these things), early indicators of dyslexia can include:



  • Close relative with dyslexia.

  • Difficulty learning letter sounds.

  • Unable to rhyme words.

  • Confusion of left and right.

  • Slow to tie shoelaces.

  • Chronic ear infections.

  • Difficulty following  instructions.

  • Difficulty with:

    • memorising ABCs or phone numbers;

    • recognising that two words start with the same letter;

    • mixing sounds or syllables in long words.


Early School Years

  • Reading problems unexpected relative to other abilities.

  • Persistent letter reversals.

  • Slow, inaccurate reading.

  • Extreme difficulty sounding out words.

  • Terrible spelling.

  • Difficulty following multi-step instructions.

  • Working memory and processing speed.

  • Difficulty with:

    • reading the time;

    • recalling the right word;

    • sequences, such as months of the year;

    • memorisation


Secondary School

  • Poor reading fluency

  • Reduced reading comprehension (may need to re-read many times)

  • Poor spelling, including lack of knowledge of patterns in words

  • Poor writing fluency

  • Difficulties writing in a structured manner (ie. stentence and paragraph construction, difficulty structuring essays)

  • Disorganisation and difficulties with planning

  • Limited working memory, which may become more pronounced as the demands of schooling increase

  • Word finding difficulties


If you feel that your child is displaying signs of dyslexia please do not listen if someone says "they will grow out of it" or "all children progress at their own rate". No one grows out of dyslexia and time is valuable when it comes to dyslexia and a child's positive self esteem.

Classic Indicators
Dyslexic strengths


Dyslexia is not related to intelligence and children with dyslexia are often stronger in areas such as big-picture thinking, problem solving, creativity, leadership, business, verbal communication and vocabulary and lateral thinking.


In fact, there are many studies that have shown the percentage of people with dyslexia in fields such an engineering, art and entrepreneurship is over twice the percentage of people with dyslexia in the general population.


Many highly successful people have identified as dyslexic, including Richard Branson, Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Agatha Christie, Jessica Watson and more.























Dyslexic Strengths
Evidence based teaching of reading

National inquiries into the teaching of reading in the United States, the United Kingdom and in Australia have all confirmed that effective reading instruction must address five key areas (with oral language recently added to 'the big six of reading':

  1. oral language;

  2. phonemic awareness;

  3. phonics;

  4. fluency;

  5. vocabulary; and

  6. comprehension.


Children with dyslexic type characteristics particularly benefit from teaching that adheres to the principles of: highly structured, systematic, ‘little and often’, using graphic representation, and allowing time for reinforcement and encouraging generalization.


Teachers of low-progress readers should employ approaches to reading instruction that include explicit and systematic instruction in the five key areas outlined above, and these should be taught intensively.


A child that has this knowledge will hold the tools which will enable them to decode words written in English. This needs to be taught, over and over again, and multisensory teaching that draws on all the senses of the learner can over time reinforce learning. This approach benefits all children, but is critical for children with dyslexia.


Whatever the reasons, students struggling to learn to read need explicit, systematic, intensive instruction focusing on what scientific research has shown to be the essential components of learning to read.

Fore more on how to teach reading effectively in every classroom, ever day visit the Five From Five website, created by the Centre for Independent Studies.

AUSPELD have released comprehensive guides for parents and teachers on Understanding Learning Difficulties, which includes loads of credible, evidence-validated information. Highly recommended for schools and parents.


For links visit our Free Resources page.

Nationally Consistent Collection of Data

What is the NCCD? 

The national data collection asks all schools and governments to report, for the first time, in a nationally consistent way, the number of students in Australian schools requiring an educational adjustment because of disability. Dyslexia is a learning disability under the NCCD descriptors, and the Disability Discrimination Act (2005).

Nationally consistent information on students with disability enables schools, education authorities and governments to gain a more complete understanding of how many students have a disability in schools in Australia, what that disability is and how best they support them by making a ‘reasonable adjustment’.

The national data collection is also an opportunity for schools to review their learning and support systems and processes, helping to ensure schools focus on the core practices that can deliver the best possible learning outcomes for all their students.

All Australian schools have been required to participate since August 2015.

Why you should ask your child’s school if your child is on this data -base?

It will benefit your child in the longer term. Once his/her needs have been recognised and placed on this database-which does not publish your child’s identity publicly-schools also have to record the adjustments and support adopted by the school to meet the needs of your child.

The collection, transfer and storage of data are subject to a range of Commonwealth and/or state and territory legal requirements.

Information/advice about the privacy and consent arrangements that may apply to your school in relation to this data collection is available through your education authority/sector and school principal.

Nationally, this data will record the number, and type, of disabilities across Australia, that attend mainstream schools, and, how schools are meeting needs to support students with special learning needs. It will also help future research in the field of learning disabilities.

PLEASE read the Information for Parents and Carers Fact Sheet on this page, and ask your child’s teacher or Principal for more information.

NCCD Parents and Carers Fact sheet

Individual Learning Plans


The use of an individual Learning Plan (ILP) is one way specific learning goals can be recorded to best support student learning outcomes. An Individual Learning Plan (ILP) is a document that establishes a set of learning goals and objectives for an individual student.


ILP’s are written by the teacher during and after an ILP meeting with parents, carers, case workers, therapists, school counsellors, and anyone else positively involved in the student’s life. And, of course, they should involve the student.

The Department of Education encourages parents to speak with their child's teacher or principal if worries about their child's learning or development. 

  • An individual Learning Plan will be developed, with your help, to identify goals for learning.

  • Educational adjustments will be made to the teaching and learning program to help your child participate.

  • Specialist staff, equipment or technology may be used.

Here is an example may need to advocate to ensure that your child's needs and adjustments are being met. 

Learning Passports

A ‘learning passport’ or ‘about me’ postcard is a great idea for children with any learning differences, particularly those who are not yet confident enough to self-advocate for their needs in the classroom. This can be a small card that children and/or parents develop that outlines strengths, weaknesses and accommodations/adjustments, which children can quietly give to relief or subject teachers to ensure they understand what’s going on.


An example of why a ‘passport’ can be useful: A relief teacher has not been briefed about the child and inadvertently causes distress by asking her to read aloud. If she had quietly shown the passport to that teacher at the start of the day or the lesson, the situation may have been avoided.

There are lots of great examples of learning passports, which you could use to copy and paste relevant information into a new document and create an individualised passport for your child.

Teaching Reading
Individual Learning Plans
Learning Passport
ruby passport.JPG
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