Although learning starts in the womb and is a life-long process, many so-called learning difficulties show themselves when a child goes to nursery or school for the first time. For some people learning difficulties continue to be a battle throughout life. Learning difficulties are mostly the external expression of something more fundamental in a person that is not working properly. It very often has little to do with ‘brightness’ or IQ – quite the contrary, many very bright people with a high IQ display significant learning difficulties.

Many learning difficulties are initially brought to the attention of parents by teachers at school. It normally is assessed on the ‘output’ of the child in relation to his or her age. It is useful, however, to remember that certain attainments will not be achieved until a child reaches a particular stage of development and at which age this will happen will vary from child to child. Development is a stage not and age! Furthermore, the ‘output’ will invariably be linked to how well information reaches the person through the senses, the ‘input’, and how this information is processed in the brain. Please also explore ‘The Senses’, ‘The Brain’ and ‘Processing’ pages on this website.

In the first instance you often can get a reasonable evaluation of how learning difficulties influence a person by simple observations you can make yourself. These can play a key role in uncovering what may lie behind learning, sensory, developmental or emotional difficulties.

Here we outline some typical observations that indicate learning difficulties. Please keep in mind that some of these are clearly age related – we would not expect a three year old to write a novel!

  • Has difficulty with reading
  • Has difficulty with writing
  • Cannot do ‘joined-up’ writing
  • Has difficulty with copying correctly from a book
  • Has difficulty with spelling
  • Reverses letter or words
  • Finds it difficult to tell the time from a traditional clock face
  • Finds mathematics very difficult
  • Cannot sit still or is fidgety
  • Has difficulties riding a two-wheeled bicycle
  • Finds it difficult to catch balls
  • Has poor memory
  • Has poor concentration
  • Cannot keep up in class
  • Has poor social interactions with peers
  • Has low self-esteem
  • Seems low or depressed
  • Is frustrated or angry
  • Expresses ‘unacceptable’ behaviour

Typical observations on their own may not be meaningful. However, where there is a cluster of indicators, possibly across a number of senses, and the person has learning, sensory, developmental or emotional difficulties, these can indicate that one or more of the senses are out of balance.

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