What is specific learning difficulties (SpLD)

SpLD is an umbrella term used to cover a range of frequently co-occurring learning difficulties e.g. reading, writing, mathematics and motor coordination.  Students with SpLD have normal intelligence.  They do not have sensory impairment or a lack of learning opportunities.  However, they demonstrate a significant discrepancy between their levels of expected achievement and actual performance.

Specific Learning Difficulties in Reading and Writing (Dyslexia)

The most common type of SpLD is found in reading and writing, which is also known as dyslexia.  Students with dyslexia, despite having normal intelligence and formal learning experiences, are unable to read, spell and dictate words accurately and fluently.  Such conditions are severe and persistent.  Generally speaking, they have poorer literacy skills and weaker cognitive abilities in relation to reading and writing. 


  • express better in oral than written means;
  • cannot read fluently, often mispronounce words or forget the pronunciations;
  • have difficulty with spelling/ word dictation despite having made considerable effort to learn;
  • often omit strokes and add unnecessary ones when copying Chinese characters; and
  • get tired easily and need extra effort to concentrate in order to complete reading and writing assignments.

Students with dyslexia may have other comorbid developmental disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, developmental language disorder and developmental coordination disorder.

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)

Another type of SpLD is Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD).  Students with DCD are significantly slower in the development of motor co-ordination than their peers of the same age.  Students with DCD may have difficulties in learning, self-care and daily activities. Their academic performance and social relationship may be affected.


  • weak in perceptual ability;
  • appear to have clumsy movements;
  • have difficulty in self-care, e.g. buttoning up and tying the shoelaces;
  • have difficulty in balance and postural control and fall over easily;
  • weak gross and fine motor control affect their daily activities, e.g. pencil grip, using scissors, picking up an object, buttoning up, running, walking, throwing and catching the ball;
  • have difficulty in playing physical games, e.g. playing ball games and rope skipping;
  • slow at copying and writing, have messy handwriting despite paying attention and effort;
  • have poor physical fitness and low self-esteem; and
  • have difficulty in oragnizing their self-belongings and often need help.

Students with DCD may have other comorbid developmental disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, developmental language disorder and dyslexia.


If I suspect that my child might have SpLD, I should…

…initiate contact with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO), class teacher, student support team or school social worker.  The school can then provide appropriate support and follow-up according to the needs of my child. 


After my child is assessed to have SpLD, I should...

…provide the school with the Special Educational Needs (SEN) information of my child promptly and proactively and maintain communication with SENCO, student support team, class teacher and subject teachers to understand my child’s learning in school and discuss appropriate support strategies with them when necessary.


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