What is a learning difference? 

There are several common learning differences and they are dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyscalculia and dysgraphia [1]. As a teacher, or someone that works with young people it is important to be aware of how learning differences can impact someone. Therefore, we have summarised several learning differences below with an explanation of how the learning difference could typically impact a young person. 


Dyslexia is characterised by: 

  • Spelling that’s unpredictable and inconsistent 
  • Putting letters and figures the wrong way round  
  • Confusing the order of letters in words 
  • Reading slowly or making errors when reading aloud 
  • Visual disturbances when reading (for example, a child may describe letters and words as seeming to move around or appearing blurred)   


Dyspraxia is characterised by: 

  • Problems with co-ordination, balance and movement 
  • Difficulty in learning new skills, thinking, and remembering information at school and home 
  • Difficulty with daily living skills, such as dressing or preparing meals 
  • Difficulty with writing, typing, drawing and grasping small objects 

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) 

Attention Deficit Disorder is often called ADHD but there are two separate conditions: 

  • People may have a short attention span and be easily distracted 
  • They may make careless mistakes in schoolwork 
  • May appear forgetful or lose things 
  • May be unable to stick to tasks that are time-consuming 
  • May appear to be unable to listen or carry out instructions 
  • Will constantly change activity or task 
  • Will have difficulty organising tasks 

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is characterised by: 

  • Being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings 
  • Constant fidgeting 
  • Being unable to concentrate on tasks 
  • Displaying excessive physical movement 
  • A person with ADHD may talk excessively and may act without thinking 
  • They may interrupt conversations and have little or no sense of danger [2] 


People with dyscalculia will: 

  • Have significant difficulty learning basic math functions like addition and subtraction, times tables and more 
  • Have difficulty estimating how long it will take to complete a task 
  • Struggle with maths homework and exams 
  • Struggle to process or understand graphs and charts 
  • Have difficulty reading clocks and telling the time [3] 


People with dysgraphia will: 

  • Have difficulty forming letters 
  • Have difficulty writing grammatically correct sentences  
  • Experience difficulty with spacing letters correctly  
  • Have difficulty writing in a straight line 
  • They may have difficulty holding and controlling a writing tool  
  • Have problems writing clearly enough to read back later 
  • Have trouble writing complete words without skipping letters [4] 

If a young person has one or more of the above learning differences, then this can cause problems in all classes.  Imagine the anxiety levels for a young person dealing with any of these challenges.  You might be thinking that dyscalculia would only cause problems in maths class, but you’d be wrong.  Science, geography, history; in fact, any class that involves timelines or measurements is a challenge for a pupil with dyscalculia.  Even getting to class on time, when you struggle to tell the time, can be an issue.  Likewise, a young person with dyslexia or dysgraphia will have problems in all their classes as so much of the curriculum is based around reading and then writing down what you have learnt.     

Having a learning difference will also affect a young person’s mental health.  You’ll probably find young people with learning differences have very low self-esteem and little confidence in their abilities.  So as someone that works with young people, what can you do to help? There is one thing you can do that makes a big difference – be patient and understanding.  Creating a calm, non-judgemental quiet environment is key. If you can, also try to give the young person who is struggling extra time to complete a task.   

Navigating life with a learning difference can make many young people feel very frustrated and angry that they are unable to perform tasks that seem to come so easily to others. You may find that they will disengage completely and want to leave the room.  It can be very overwhelming to be completely unable to understand a task or a game that they have been asked to get involved in.  Watching their peers receive praise or just watching them do well, whilst they are frantically trying to understand a basic task, is very demoralising and can leave a young person struggling with their emotions.   

Our personal development workshops are designed to get the best out of your young people, to encourage them and help them succeed, no matter what their personal challenges are. Get in touch with us today, to find out more about how Say It With Your Chest can help your young people.


[1] SOAS University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies) https://www.soas.ac.uk/studentadviceandwellbeing/information-for-staff/disabledstudents/learningdifficulties/ 

[2] NHS website https://www.nhs.uk/conditions  

[3] ChildMind.org https://childmind.org/article/how-to-spot-dyscalculia/  

[4] Understood.org https://www.understood.org/articles/en/understanding-dysgraphia