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Neurodiversity/ Specific Learning Differences (SpLD's)

Neurodiverse students with an assessment of dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ADHD/ADD or other, can access a range of support services at the university including:

In order to make recommendations for reasonable adjustments, including alternative exam arrangements, you will be asked to provide supporting evidence, usually a comprehensive diagnostic assessment completed by a qualified assessor with the practicing certificate. Form 8's, Educational, Health and Care Plans or letters from your previous school or college are not sufficient evidence but we can advise you on how you can make arrangements for an assessment.

If you're unsure about supporting evidence or the support offered, please contact us through the Wellbeing portal to make an appointment to speak with an adviser.

What are Specific Learning Differences (SpLDs)?


Dyslexia is a combination of abilities and difficulties; the difficulties affect the learning process in aspects of literacy and sometimes numeracy. Getting through required reading is generally seen as the biggest challenge at higher education level due in part to inability to skim and scan written material. Marked and persistent weaknesses may be identified in short-term and working memory, speed of processing, sequencing skills, auditory and /or visual perception, spoken language and motor skills.

Abilities can include good visuo-spatial skills, creative thinking and intuitive understanding; enabling technology is usually found to be very beneficial.

Dyslexia and Visual Stress

Dyslexia can be associated with visual problems that can cause visual stress which further impacts on reading ability. You can find further information on Irlen Syndrome and Visual Stress here.


Students with dyspraxia are affected by an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement, often appearing clumsy. Gross motor skills (related to balance and co-ordination) and fine motor skills (relating to manipulation of objects) are hard to learn and difficult to retain and generalise. Writing is particularly laborious and keyboard skills difficult to acquire. Pronunciation may also be affected and people with dyspraxia may be over/under sensitive to noise, light and touch. They may have poor awareness of body position and misread social cues in addition to those shared characteristics common to many SpLDs.


Dyscalculia is a learning difficulty involving the most basic aspect of arithmetical skills. The difficulty lies in the reception, comprehension, or production of quantitative and spatial information. Students with dyscalculia may have difficulty in understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers and have problems learning number facts and procedures.

These can relate to basic concepts such as telling the time, calculating prices and handling change and estimating and measuring such things as temperature and speed.

Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be categorised under SpLDs but also under other disability categories. In most cases it affects people's concentration, with particular difficulty commencing and switching tasks, together with a very short attention span and high levels of distractibility. It may also impact on effective use of feedback and listening skills, hyperactivity, acting impulsively, having difficulty foreseeing outcomes or planning ahead and be noticeably restless and fidgety. Students who experience difficulties relating to ADHD are also advised to see their GP to discuss NHS routes and medical interventions alongside any reasonable adjustments and learning-based support support offered at the University.

How do these SpLDs affect learning?

The following are recognised as characteristic effects of dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties on the learning process. The range of characteristics will differ from person to person.

  • Lack of confidence.
  • Difficulty in becoming fluent in a new skill to the point where it becomes automatic, for example reading, writing and driving a car.
  • Taking longer to complete tasks than other students.
  • Difficulties in organising work and other aspects of their lives.
  • A poor sense of passage of time, mixing up dates, times and appointments.
  • Poor short-term memory leading to difficulties in carrying out instructions or copying from the board and remembering what has just been read and/or said.
  • Difficulties retrieving words when speaking and mispronunciations caused by difficulties in discriminating sounds or motor problems.
  • Directional confusions, getting easily lost and having problems using maps or finding their way to a new place.
  • Poor motor control resulting in a range of difficulties including controlling a pen leading to untidy handwriting with many crossings out.
  • Errors when reading and spelling such as confusion or omission of sounds and/or muddling words.
  • Difficulties in retaining the visual image of words, signs, symbols and formulae.
  • Difficulties in reading text caused by visual distortions such as blurring or moving letters.
  • Difficulties in comprehension despite appearing to read fluently.
  • Difficulties in sequencing letters in spelling, or numbers and signs in maths, difficulties taking messages, remembering phone numbers and dialling them accurately.
  • Problems with sequencing such as instructions and mathematical procedures, sequencing of numbers or letters and difficulties using dictionaries, encyclopaedias and directories.
  • A short attention span and poor concentration.
  • Particular susceptibility to stress which may be associated with deadlines or examinations.
  • Noticeable inconsistency between what can be achieved on a “good” and “bad” day.

(Source: DfES Specific Learning Difficulties Working Group: Draft Interim Report (July, 2004))