Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD)

Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) are neurodevelopmental disorders that interferes with one's ability to listen, think, speak, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. Individuals with SLD may struggle with reading (Dyslexia), writing (Dysgraphia), or mathematics (Dyscalculia).


Symptoms of an SLD

The diagnosis of SLD requires the presence of at least one of the following symptoms that have persisted for at least six months, despite any targeted interventions:

✽   Inaccurate or slow and effortful word reading 

Reads single words aloud incorrectly or slowly and hesitantly, frequently guesses words, has difficulty sounding out words.

✽   Difficulty understanding the meaning of what is read 

May read text accurately but not understand the sequence, relationships, inferences, or deeper meanings of what is read.

✽   Difficulties with spelling 

May add, omit, or substitute vowels or consonants.

✽   Difficulties with written expression 

Makes multiple grammatical or punctuation errors within sentences; employs poor paragraph organization; written expression of ideas lacks clarity.

✽   Difficulties mastering number sense, number facts, or calculation 

Has poor understanding of numbers, their magnitude, and relationships; counts on fingers to add single-digit numbers instead of recalling the math fact as peers do; gets lost amid arithmetic computation and may switch procedures.

✽   Difficulties with mathematical reasoning 

Has severe difficulty applying mathematical concepts, facts, or techniques to solve quantitative problems.

Individuals with an SLD might face issues academically. As academic demands increase, the signs and symptoms are likely to grow more obvious. 


Severity of SLDs

  • Mild: Some difficulties with learning in one or two academic areas, but may be able to compensate.
  • Moderate: Significant difficulties with learning, requiring some specialized teaching and some accommodations or supportive services.
  • Severe: Severe difficulties with learning, affecting several academic areas and requiring ongoing intensive specialized teaching.


Treatment for SLDs

There is currently no cure for SLDs. However, with timely intervention and support, individuals can learn to cope well with the symptoms. Listed below are some programmes that provide such support:

✽   Individualised Education Programmes

Focuses on strengthening the skills and developing a learning strategy tailored to take advantage of an individual's strengths. 

  • E.g. Repetition and mnemonic devices might make it easier to memorize math formulas, or drawing to illustrate a word problem could help with better visualization of the concept

✽   Special Education (SPED) Schools

In Singapore, students diagnosed with SLD may opt to attend Special Education schools. These schools have more targeted and specialised support to help students with learning disabilities.

  • Pathlight
  • Eden School
  • AWWA
  • Rainbow Centre
  • Metta School

✽   Learning Support Programmes

In mainstream schools in Singapore, teachers in these programmes teach students with SLDs in smaller groups, with classes tailored to students’ needs. 

Students who are identified with dyslexia will also undergo a 2-year remediation programme.

✽   Psychotherapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), in particular, may also help treat the emotional and behavioural issues that may accompany SLD.