The availability of information on learning differences has greatly increased making it easier to get answers but harder to know what is accurate. These are the most frequently asked questions from our members with responses and links for further reading from sites which offer accurate, evidence-based information.
About Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD)
Persons with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) are of average to superior intellect and can be as smart or smarter than their peers. It is estimated that 10-15% of the general population have SpLd.
In Hong Kong and in Britain the term SpLd refers to “Specific Learning Difficulties”. The term is interchangeable with the US usage of SLD “Specific Learning Disabilities”.
The term Special Educational Needs (SEN) includes children with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLd), AD/HD as well as those with Intellectual Differences, Autism Spectrum Disorders and those with physical, visual, hearing or speech and language deficits.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) is one of the most common behavioral conditions affecting between 5% - 11% of school-age children. In the typical Hong Kong classroom it’s likely that at least one student has AD/HD, though they may go undiagnosed.
People with AD/HD often have an uneven learning profile such that an “average” IQ score frequently masks a combination of both exceptionally low and exceptionally high skills.
Common Signs of Learning Differences
While the causes of AD/HD and Specific Learning Difficulties are different, the symptoms may appear similar. A child with AD/HD may be a struggling reader because he can’t sustain attention while the SpLD child may not read well because of processing problems.
A professional evaluation is necessary to identify the source of a child’s learning differences so that appropriate treatment and support may be provided.
Students with AD/HD often have an uneven learning profile such that an “average” IQ score frequently masks a combination of both exceptionally low and exceptionally high skills.
Evaluations and Testing
Many types of tests are used to evaluate children for learning and attention issues. The area where your child is having trouble will help determine which particular tests are given. Tests focus on measures of overall ability and on specific skills. Scores are typically reported on a “standard” scale meaning the scores are converted to a common measurer like a percentile, grade or age level.
An educational assessment or psycho–educational assessment will describe your child's overall intellectual potential and their academic skills and weaknesses. For example, you will learn whether your child’s reading is at grade level and, if not, where the specific deficits lie. For example, it could be that your child has trouble sounding out new words but uses intelligence to compensate, getting the gist of the information. Similar information will be provided for math aptitude. For a list of commonly used standardized tests see “Types of Tests: Inside the Evaluation Process” from Understood.org
Help at Home
Parenting a child with learning differences can be challenging. FOCUS offers these tips and support suggestions to make life at home easier for both parents and the child.
Learn all you can about your child’s learning differences and make sure your child is assessed by a qualified medical professional. You’re here and that’s a great start.
Help at School
Successful management of students with learning difference requires a collaborative approach between educator, student and the parent.
An Individual Education Plan (IEP) should be used to coordinate recommended behavioral support and learning strategies across the school environment and regular communications between teacher(s) and home relating to class work and social/emotional behavior should be established.