Specific Learning Disorder (SLD)

What is Specific Learning Disorder?

Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that interferes with a student’s ability to listen, think, speak, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. Students with SLD may struggle with reading (Dyslexia), writing (Dysgraphia), or math (Dyscalculia).

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

  1. Inaccurate or slow and effortful word reading 
    1. Reads single words aloud incorrectly or slowly and hesitantly, frequently guesses words, has difficulty sounding out words
  2. Difficulty understanding the meaning of what is read 
    1. May read text accurately but not understand the sequence, relationships, inferences, or deeper meanings of what is read
  3. Difficulties with spelling 
    1. May add, omit, or substitute vowels or consonants
  4. Difficulties with written expression 
    1. Makes multiple grammatical or punctuation errors within sentences; employs poor paragraph organization; written expression of ideas lacks clarity
  5. Difficulties mastering number sense, number facts, or calculation 
    1. 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
  6. Difficulties with mathematical reasoning 
    1. Has severe difficulty applying mathematical concepts, facts, or techniques to solve quantitative problems

If we are struggling with SLD, it is likely that we have academic skills that are substantially below expectations and may face problems in school, work, or everyday activities. As academic demands increase, the signs and symptoms are likely to grow more obvious. 

Severity of SLD

  • 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 SLD

SLD cannot be cured. However, with timely intervention and support, you can still be successful in school. These are some programmes available: 

  • Individualised Education Programmes: Strengthening the skills and developing a learning strategy tailored to take advantage of your 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 
  • SPED schools: Children diagnosed with SLD can receive special education services.
    • Pathlight
    • Eden School
    • AWWA
    • Rainbow Centre
    • Metta School
  • Learning Support Programmes: In mainstream schools in Singapore, teachers in these programmes teach students with SLD 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 behaviour therapy, in particular, may also help treat the emotional and behavioural problems that may accompany SLD.

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