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Learning Difficulties

Between 15 and 20 percent of children underachieve academically for a wide range of reasons.  Of these, 3 to 5 percent will have a specific learning disorder.  This group have difficulties with perceiving or processing information, do not respond to intervention in the way we would expect, and have difficulties with learning that tend to persist. 


Specific Learning Disorders cause impairment in one or more areas: 

Frustrated child having difficulty with school work
  • Impairment in reading (sometimes referred to as dyslexia).  Difficulties are found with reading accuracy, rate or fluency and/or reading comprehension.

  • Impairment in written expression (sometimes referred to as a language based dysgraphia).  Difficulties are found with spelling accuracy, grammar, punctuation, organisation of written work.  In addition, difficulties with handwriting can be present.

  • Impairment in mathematics (sometimes referred to as dyscalculia).  Difficulties are found with number sense, remembering maths facts, mathematical reasoning and/or accurate or fluent calculation


 Assessment Tools Used

A comprehensive assessment consists of a standardized assessment battery as well as additional testing depending on the areas of concern and the child's particular circumstances and unique presentation.

Tools commonly used to assess cognitive, academic, and processing skills include:

  • The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V) or the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS-IV), which are intelligence tests that provide information on each individual's unique learning profile and learning potential.

  • The Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT-III), which provides information on current levels of academic achievement.

  • The Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP2).

  • The Test of Integrated Language and Literacy Skills (TILLS).

  • The Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE).

  • The Test of handwriting speed.

In addition, an investigation into other factors that could be impacting on learning may also be conducted.  This may include additional assessment for Behaviour Difficulties, ADHD, Anxiety, and Depression.  In addition, in some circumstances a screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder will be done, with a referral for further assessment if needed.

The Assessment Process

  • For child or adolescent clients, a thorough history of difficulties is obtained through a consultation with parents /caregivers.  

  • With parental consent, questionnaires will be supplied to school staff / teachers who are often invaluable in providing an understanding of the child's academic, social and emotional functioning in the school environment.  In addition, phone calls will be made to relevant parties when required.

  • Generally, four hours of testing time will be scheduled with the child, usually across one day, with breaks occurring between testing sessions, and as needed throughout the assessment.

Child being assessed

  • A feedback session is provided for parents, to provide them with an understanding of the child's patterns of strengths and weaknesses as well as the implications of the child's results and any diagnosis that may have been made.  In addition recommendations and intervention strategies are discussed.

  • A comprehensive and detailed report is provided which includes the child's results, as well as recommendations and intervention strategies for parents, teachers, and others.

 ​When should an assessment be done?

If you or your child's teachers are concerned about your child's learning, it is best to get an assessment as soon as possible.  Early identification of learning difficulties is important to maximise the benefits of intervention and to reduce the likelihood of secondary problems occurring, such as anxiety about school work, poor self-esteem, or school avoidance.


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