top of page

SNN Presents: Understanding Specific Learning Difficulties

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

“They would say, there is nothing wrong with the way you are, you just process information differently, and that’s okay.

This is something you need to learn, unfortunately a lot of things you learn in school don’t help you learn that, but that’s fine we will find ways for you to learn that.”

(Eric Macalligan, talking about his parents in Q&A with Sarah Tam)

Getting the Right Kind of Information

The most recent SNN Presents webinar drew the biggest sign-up we’ve had since starting our Covid-era online event series.

The subject clearly resonated very strongly.

When children have specific learning difficulties (SLDs), it is usually the parents who first notice their child might be struggling. The question then becomes: How do we as parents find applicable and affordable resources, so that we’re able to navigate the best ways to help them? Especially because — as many of us in this community know — learning difficulties may also be accompanied by behavioural problems. And it’s often in cases like this, that it is difficult to distinguish whether or not to address each concern separately or together.

This illuminating webinar was lead by distinguished experts in this field, including Dr Minna Chau, a clinical child psychologist who is the founder of Sprout in Motion and Ms Liu Liu, an educational psychologist in Dr Chau’s team. Dr Chau and Ms Liu explained what SLDs look like, , what the tell-tale signs might be, the types of very targeted interventions to support children with SLDs.

Our third and equally distinguished guest, Ms Therese Owen, a Primary Learning Enhancement Team teacher at Renaissance College Hong Kong, followed, and gave us her insights into how a mainstream school actively supports these types of interventions.

Reading, Writing and ‘Rithmetic

SLDs represent a range of conditions that often show overlapping symptoms.

During the webinar, Dr Chau and Ms Liu addressed the three most common types: difficulty reading (dyslexia), difficulty writing (dysgraphia) and difficulty with maths (dyscalculia). And while each condition is able to impact the other, these conditions do not necessarily co-exist. Interestingly, SLDs are more common than one might think — 10% of school children in the US have learning difficulties.

Other than a hunch, how do you know that something may not be right with your child?

According to Ms Liu, a child’s school performance is usually several grades behind where they should be for their age.

Other signs include; a difficulty telling left from right; reversing letters or words; having difficulty recognising patterns; difficulty understanding or following instructions; being disorganised; having trouble remembering what was said; having difficulty understanding the concept of time.

There can also be motor challenges, such as a lack of coordination when moving around, or struggling to use a pen.

Some children might also have behavioural challenges, and parents often worry that these cloud perceptions (especially by teachers/schools) of what the underlying issue is.

Specialists such as Dr Chau and Ms Liu can conduct a comprehensive psychoeducation evaluation of a child who is showing signs of SLD.

They carefully observe the child in their school setting, take a thorough historic record of what they have been taught, including teaching style, input from teachers and parents, and sometimes language assessments. This enables them to put together a concrete plan for targeted an