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Specific Learning Difficulties


What does SpLD* stand for?

(Super Power Learning Department!)

*Specific Learning Difficulties

SpLD is the place students go to discover the best way for them to learn, to discover strategies and resources that can help them in the classroom and to understand what a huge advantage learning differences can be. Their learning differences can become their super powers. 


Specific learning difficulties means a learner has a difficulty with particular aspects of learning. The most common SpLD’s are dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia and ADHD.


Who is in SpLD Team?

Meet The Team

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Kirsty Leach

SpLD Teacher - Tuesday - Thursday from 9.30am - 2pm

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Laura Macdonald

SpLD Teaching Assistant - Monday - Friday

What should I do if I think a child in my class is having difficulty learning?

When a difficulty in the class starts to be noticed it is important to start gathering information about that learner. Often children have times in their education journey when they struggle so it's important to properly assess the situation. It is far more effective for a learner to remain learning amongst their peers for as long as possible.

1.  Revisit the EHCP

This document can contain previous strategies or classroom suggestions that should be in place. It can also give some guidance to the preferred ways of learning.

2.  Assessment

Assessment data offers specific insight into the child's current levels they are working at. This can help determine if they are on track for their age and making the expected progress. Use the data recording systems such as international phonics assessment, PM Benchmarking, Frog and flight tracker to understand a students current levels of attainment.

3.  Observations

Look at the specifics as to where a learner is having difficulties. Is it spelling, focus, writing, reading, engagement? Record your observations and date them. Communicate with teachers/support staff to gather a bigger picture around the child's struggles.

4.  APDR

So when you have some information about a learner then create an Assess, Plan, Do, Review tab on their IEP. This is where you as the current teaching team can record your observations and assessment data and make a plan. This is useful for future reference to look back and see what has already been tried in the past. How can you support the learner in class? (see support suggestions below) Once you have a plan then decide who will be responsible for the support and integrate it into your teaching. After a decided period of time, review whether your new plans are having an impact, retest using the original format for a clear idea on progress. Are you seeing a difference if not, try a different strategy then start the APDR process again from a different angle.

5.  Refer to MDT

Once all of the previous steps have been completed and there are still struggles with learning then it's time to refer to MDT. Once received the SpLD team will look at your APDR and see what strategies have already been actioned and will have some starting data to assess the specific difficulties. We will then arrange to meet with the referrer and the team around the child to decide on the best plan of action for their difficulties.

How can you help a struggling learner in class?

Learners that have dyslexia or other types of learning difficulties can benefit from some small changes in the classroom. Here are some things you can try implementing to support your struggling young person.


Multisensory teaching

A variety of teaching styles can really make a difference to retaining information and engagement. Can you use physical resources to help such as numicon, unifix, punctuation or word prompts, visual aids such as now and next, hands on teaching experiences, learning outside, using music or audio, videos and pictures and learning through action. 



Be aware that the processing time can be much slower and so time is needed to absorb what has been asked of them. Support this by writing stepped instructions on the board or having prepared visuals that can spark the memory as to what has been asked of them, this can support independence and lessen the need for verbal prompts. Make instructions simple.


Reading for pleasure 

Reading does not only need to be from a book but it does help to be a regular activity. There are many interesting ways to read, following a recipe, reading a comic or newspaper, following instructions, using plays to create a drama or even being read to can be very beneficial.



One of the most common difficulties is spellings. Spellings require the physical action of writing or some other form to build up muscle memory and support retention. If possible, practicing spellings daily, in some form is vital for progress. They can be written in many different ways and do not have to be the usual written list. See this website for spelling practice ideas: 


Vocabulary walls

Having a dedicated space where new words can be put up with a small illustration to support its definition allows a learner to independently use a resource that can help understanding and spellings.


Writing for purpose

To engage a reluctant learner try finding something they are passionate about and use it to engage learning. Can they write a letter to someone they admire? Can they write a list of instructions on how to play a game? Could they make invitations to a class party? Or Can they write a review for a game or book they have accessed? Make writing meaningful and fun.

Talk to the child about their struggles

Ask the learner if they know their strengths and weaknesses, can they tell you what learning is like for them? Would they like help? Resources? Equipment? It is so important young people have an understanding of the way they learn. 



Can the instructions or task be simplified? Can they access the curriculum at a level that is easier for them to understand?


What happens once I refer a learner to MDT?

When you have been through steps 1-4 of things to try in class and had at least 2 rounds of APDR with little or no progress then it will be time to refer a learner to MDT.

MDT is a team of multi disciplinary therapists that meet weekly to discuss new referrals and designate a support team to then make contact with the referer and team working around that child. A member of the SpLD team will then arrange to have a meeting to discuss the issues and assess what APDR the class has tried already with the learner. We then make a plan:


  1. We first meet the child and build a relationship.

  2. During this relationship building we would aim to complete some specific assessments such as a Sandwell test for maths levels, YARC/Benchmarking for reading levels or Blackwell spelling test for spelling age.

  3. Once we have established the working level of the learner we would start a time specific intervention that supports the difficulties. Some interventions require daily input for maximum effect which can be supported by our SpLD TA if required.

  4. This will be put as an APDR on the learners IEP and have a review date. This review date may be at the end of the intervention course or after a decided period of time. At the review we would aim to retest to see if any progress has been made and to check the intervention is right for the learner.


Aims and Goals for SpLD

The main aims for supporting SpLD needs at Gretton are:


  • A whole school approach that understands the learning differences and needs of the students. 

  • To encourage creative strategies into classroom practice that enable learners to work independently and inclusively with their peers.

  • For staff to undertake a metacognitive approach to learning when working and supporting children with their difficulties and to use the APDR cycle.


Further Learning

There are lots of great websites that offer further knowledge, strategies and ideas when supporting learners with SpLD. 


Made by Dyslexia is an organisation that offer a part excellent training course for free for people that want to know a bit more about dyslexia, how to spot it and support it in the classroom. 


Inner Drive is a fabulous website for supporting metacognition around learners, to encourage and understand their own learning needs. 


The British Dyslexia Association is a hub of knowledge, advice and experience for learners with dyslexia 


The Driver Youth Trust has a bank of resources specifically to understand and support literacy needs. 


Oxford Owl a place jam packed with information, resources and ideas. It's particularly useful for numicon and maths support. You can also access some assessment resources to help gain insight into current levels. 


Twinkl has become an amazing resource especially for SpLD and SEN. It has specific dyslexia and dyscalculia resource packs.

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