Cognition and Learning

SpLD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, MLD.
The vast majority of children with SLD (Severe Learning Difficulties) or PMLD (Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties) are more likely to be educated in Special schools.  
Cognitions and learning difficulties make it difficult for children to keep up in most, if not all, areas of the curriculum.  Many face challenges in developing basic literacy and numeracy skills and often they experience struggles with long and short term memory function too.

Some children may struggle not just with their academic skills but with their all-round development; for example motor skills (catching a ball or manipulating a pencil) and organisation.  Avoidance techniques might be employed and as they get older any gaps between the child and their peers begin to widen further.  

This page is sponsored by:

Scanning Pens

Finding the right reading support can be challenging for those with literacy challenges such as dyslexia. The award-winning assistive technology company, Scanning Pens, has spent the last 17 years working to break down the barriers around dyslexia and other reading difficulties. Recognition of the company’s diligence was earned when they won at the Bett Awards 2019 and 2020 and recently the Queens Award for Enterprise: International Trade 2021.

Supporting those who struggle with literacy has been a personal mission of theirs from the start with Co-Founder and CEO, Jack Churchill, having dyslexia. Scanning Pens has helped tens of thousands of people worldwide and continue to find new ways to support those with reading difficulties. 

Their pen scanners use portable, text-to-speech technology that reads back scanned text in a clear voice or via headphones to aid readers of all ages. Students use this support to aid their independent reading and develop their literacy skills, improving their confidence in reading while remaining a great alternative to a human reader.

Through independent research, they know people of all ages achieve their potential when they feel engaged with their daily goals and tasks. Their range of pen scanners remove the reading barriers to support independent literacy skills at school, college, university, or the workplace.

We offer a FREE 30 day trial for your school click on the link below to register-


Primary Contact – Quin Chandler

Primary Business Development Manager UK

020 3929 6022


Secondary Contact – Jim Bowen

Secondary Busines Development Manager UK

020 3906 9513


If you would like to learn more or book a FREE CPD training session virtually or in person, you can request by clicking on the link below and selecting your sector-


Products to support

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So You’re the SENCO Part 7

So You’re the SENCO Part 7

Part 7 of our So You’re a SENCO series. A parent was not happy about a sanction their child had received and had somehow managed to bypass the meagre security features in the school and make it all the way to a second-floor classroom to hurl open the door and start screaming.

Resources to support


Specific Learning Difficulties.  This catch-all term encompasses many special educational needs each with their own "specific" characteristics.

The most obvious sign that a pupil has an SpLD is that they make markedly better progress in some areas of the curriculum compared to others.

Use the sections below for more 'specific' information!




Dys (difficulty) Lexia (language)

Dyslexia is a lifelong condition that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling,  It is often inherited and occurs across a range of intellectual abilities (it is possible to be have both moderate learning difficulties and dyslexia, although where one ends and the next one begins can be more complicated to unpick!).  Pupils with dyslexia may have difficulties with processing and remembering information they see and hear.

Dyslexia is a continuum with problems from mild to severe.

Because many young children make similar mistakes to children with dyslexia it is considered very difficult to diagnose before the age of 7 and before they have had access to a significant period of high-quality teaching and interventions in which they have not made progress.

Looking for the collection of dyslexia lessons?  Click here.


Dyslexia Lessons

As created by siam dyslexiaacademy from our Facebook group



Dys (difficulty) Calculia (number)

Dyscalculia is a specific difficulty with numbers and the number system.  Often accompanied by poor working memory, children struggle to learn and recall number facts as well as perform longer calculations involving more than one step, particularly if they are expected to hold those steps in their head!

Dyscalculia on its own is not common (perhaps 3-5% of the population) but it is often diagnosed alongside other specific learning difficulties.



Dys (difficulty) Praxis (movement)

Pupils with dyspraxia have difficulties predominantly with the coordination of fine motor skills (small muscle movements such as handwriting) and gross motor skills (large muscle movements such as kicking a ball).  It is a developmental disorder and is known by a variety of names including developmental coordination disorder and discoordination disorder (DCD).  It is thought to be caused by a disruption in the way messages from the brain are transmitted to the body.

Whilst most individuals will think of clumsy children when they hear the label dyspraxia it can also be the cause of poor articulation in speech (verbal dyspraxia)

  • Verbal (oromotor) dyspraxia.
  • Constructional dyspraxia – this is to do with spatial relationships.
  • Ideational dyspraxia – affects the ability to perform co-ordinated movements in a sequence.
  • Ideomotor dyspraxia – affects organising single-step tasks.


Dys (difficulty) Graph (writing/drawing)

The least commonly heard of ‘dys’.  Dysgraphia is more than just messy handwriting!  It is commonly found in association with other difficulties such as the specific learning difficulties already addressed, ADHD and autism.

Children with dysgraphia may have only impaired handwriting, only impaired spelling (without reading problems), or both impaired handwriting and impaired spelling.  Children with dysgraphia do not have primary developmental motor disorder or dyspraxia, another cause of poor handwriting, but may have difficulty planning sequential finger movements such as the touching of the thumb to successive fingers on the same hand without visual feedback.

Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD)

Who can bestow this label?  (A commonly asked question).

Children with MLD tend to find learning in most areas of the curriculum difficult.  The most effective strategy is the reinforcement of material (overlearning) and ensuring they have plenty of time to produce work.  Remember that learning is tiring, especially when you have to put in the extra effort.

Concrete resources are a must and abstract ideas may stay beyond reach until a much later stage than for other children.

The definition of MLD varies but generally, a psychometric assessment using a cognitive abilities test (or IQ) test with a standardised score below 70 is considered to signify moderate learning difficulties.  Specific assessments such as phonics, reading, spelling and basic umber are also likely to be below 70 on a standardised scale.  And non-verbal reasoning will also be weak.  This is different to ‘specific’ learning difficulties such as dyslexia where the profile is generally more spikey and the IQ scores or non-verbal scores may be well into the average range (85+).

The label?  Leave it to the professionals.  Someone with the right qualifications to undertake a full and comprehensive assessment of the whole child and rule out any other underlying causes.  Where you suspect MLD but don’t have the official label (for census purposes) it is best to explain to parents and staff that the child fits this profile and the strategies offered by approaching as if they had the ‘label’ would be most useful.


Top Tip


ADHD/DD is often considered to be a SpLD too but is found under the categorisation for SEMH.

Link to our PADLET on Dyslexia
Please contribute your own items by clicking the “plus” below each column.

Natalie Packer

The Teacher’s Guide to SEN

Thinking you may have seen some of these definitions before?  I borrowed them, with permission, from Natalie’s book.  If you have an NQT or trainee teacher in school and you want something to gift them – this is ideal!


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Or drop them in the Facebook files and we will upload them at the end of each month to the site.

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