What is a learning difference and how do I get it diagnosed

What is a learning difference and how do I get diagnosed

This article was written by the Great British Mag editorial team on 2 December 2020.

If you are struggling at university with things like retaining information from lectures, note-taking, planning and structuring essays or  keeping track of finances, you may be suffering from a learning difference such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia or Attention Deficit Disorder.

In this article we look at the main types of learning differences and how your university can help you get a diagnoses and support you through your studies. 

Common symptoms of learning differences

DyslexiaDifficulties with reading (especially out loud), poor handwriting, difficulties with note-taking and spelling, difficulties with organising work, poor working memory, can also find maths hard.  Positives can include: Being able to see the bigger picture, good spatial awareness, creativity and thinking ‘outside the box’.
Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder Restlessness, difficulty concentrating and paying attention, interrupting people, impulsive behaviour, poor working memory. Positives can include: Great ability to solve problems, creativity and (if interested in something) extreme focus.
DyspraxiaDifficulties with planning and organising, poor physical co-ordination (such as catching a ball or holding a pen), poor working memory, difficulties with speech. Positives can include: Creativity, problem-solving and empathy.
AutismInflexible thinking, over-reliance on routines, poor working memory, lack of social and communication skills, easily overwhelmed and may panic when things change.  Positives can include: Ability to pay attention to detail, extreme focus, can absorb and retain facts well, creativity.

Will the university be able to diagnose whether I have a learning difference?

If you think you are suffering from a learning difference reach out to your tutor, international student support and they will tell you how the university can help you get diagnosed. The diagnoses will most likely be done by external professionals and may take several weeks, plus there maybe a fee to pay.

How can the university support me?

If you are diagnosed with having a learning difference the university can help you by creating a support package to:

  • Provide you with assistive technology, such as software that can read text for you or change your speech to text on the screen.
  • Provide you with a learning mentor who can help you with academic skills, such as planning an essay or organising your work.
  • Make special exam arrangements for you, including: someone to read the questions for you, coloured paper with a larger text (if that helps you to read easier) and extra time to complete the exam.
  • Inform the tutors on your course (with your permission) about your learning difference. They can then adapt materials, give you extra time to hand in assignments and generally adjust things to suit your needs.

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