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Learning difficulties (MLD, SLD, SPLD)

All children will have a profile of learning strengths and areas for development which may mean some need some extra help and support in school. Children may receive some of their teaching or intervention within a smaller group and/ or they may receive some targeted one to one support. This may not necessarily mean however that they have ‘learning difficulties’.

The level of support and services required will depend on how severe the child or young person’s learning difficulty is.

If you have any concerns please contact the SENCO at your child’s school who can make a request for involvement to the Special Educational Needs Support team (SENS) or Educational Psychologist Service.


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What are moderate learning difficulties (MLD)?

A child or young person will take longer to learn skills than the majority of their peers and will be functioning and achieving several years behind others of the same age. Difficulties may be apparent in the early years and general development may be delayed. Children are likely to require a higher level of additional support in school.  Some children and young people with moderate learning difficulties will have an Education, Health and Care plan.

What are severe learning difficulties (SLD)?

Children and young people with SLD have significant learning impairments affecting their ability to participate in the school curriculum without high levels of support/ specialist support. They may also have difficulties with mobility and coordination, communication and completing self-help tasks, some may have additional medical needs.  Most children and young people will have an Education, Health and Care plan.

What are Profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD)?

Children and young people with PMLD have complex learning needs. In addition to very severe learning difficulties, they will have physical difficulties, sensory impairment or a severe medical condition. They will generally communicate non-verbally but may use a few words. Some may use signs and symbols or look and point to what they want. A high level of adult support is needed at all times. Children and young people are likely to need sensory stimulation and a curriculum broken down in to very small steps. Children and young people with PMLD will have an Education, Health and Care plan.

What are specific learning difficulties (SPLD)?

SPLD affects the way information is learned and processed. Some people will have more than one SpLD and it is common for there to be an overlap. People with SpLDs may have a range of difficulties with specific aspects of learning such as word reading, writing, spelling and numeracy. Specific learning difficulties include:

  • Dyslexia – Dyslexia involves difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and processing verbal information at speed.  Dyslexia affects the development of accurate and fluent word reading and spelling skills. Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation
  • Dyspraxia or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) - affects fine and/or gross motor coordination.
  • Dyscalculia - affects understanding of maths concepts and symbols

Sometimes people are described as having Specific Learning Difficulties, rather than Dyslexia or Dyspraxia because the individual experiences a unique combination of difficulties which cannot be readily categorised but may include features of one or more recognised SpLDs. Children and young people with SpLDs may require some targeted support in school.