More Information for Parents & Carers

This page contains summarised information for parents and carers about some of the learning difficulties and technical terms mentioned on this site. If you wish to find further resources and more reading click on the link button beneath each section to view Site References and Useful Links.

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What is Direct Instructional Tuition?

Direct Instruction involves acquiring, rehearsing and reviewing information. This requires regularly reviewing the concepts and makes connections between prior, current and future learning. It helps students to retain concepts and procedures automatically and easily.

Research indicates that the most effective teachers ensure students have acquired, rehearsed and connected knowledge effectively and efficiently, and incorporated the use of hand-on activities once students have learned the basic material.

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What is Synthetic Phonics?

Synthetic phonics is a widely regarded method to teach reading.

'Synthetic' refers to the practice of synthesising or blending. 'Phonics' refers to the process of linking individual sounds to the written symbols (phonemes or better known as letters). By using this method children learn to link letters to sounds and then blend them to read. They also learn to segment words into sounds and then link them to spell words.

The Apps Learning Centre (TALC) uses two evidence based synthetic phonics programs to teach children to read - Sounds Write and Alpha to Omega.

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What is the Difference between a Learning Difficulty and a Learning Disability?

Students with learning difficulties underachieve academically for a wide range of reasons, including factors such sensory impairment, behavioural issues, psychological or emotional issues, English as a second Language (ESL), truancy and ineffective instruction.  With the correct programs and evidence based instruction these children have the potential to achieve age-appropriate levels.

Students with learning disabilities have difficulties in specific areas of academic achievement as a result of an underlying neurodevelopmental disorder, the origin of which includes and interaction of genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors.  A defining factor is that a specific learning disability is life long despite appropriate intervention.

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Advice About Reading Reports

Mary-Anne is very happy to walk parents through their psychological reports and provide in class and in home suggestions to accommodate the reports as part of the Initial Diagnostic Assessment.

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What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterised by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary problems may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

What does it affect?

  1. Phonological deficit

  2. Difficulty working with the sounds in words eg, identifying beginning and end sounds in a word, producing a word that rhymes

  3. Problems learning phonic (letter/sound association) skills

  4. Poor auditory short-term memory leads to difficulty with:

    • Blending sounds together

    • Taking in verbal information

    • Learning lists of facts

    • Slower naming speed

    • Difficulty recalling names and words

    • Less fluent oral reading

    • Trouble with basic sight words

    • Orthographic processing difficulties

    • Reading and spelling problems

Facts about Dyslexia

  1. It affects 3% to 10% of the population

  2. It has a neurobiological basis (i.e., the brain functions differently)

  3. People are born with it

  4. It runs in families

  5. Lifelong condition

  6. People with dyslexia have:

    • Average or above IQ

    • Normal vision and hearing

    • Adequate education

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Dyslexia Diagnostic Testing

There is no single test for dyslexia. To reach a diagnosis, a psychologist analyses the results of an IQ battery, achievement tests and questionnaires to determine the reason for a child's learning difficulty. Diagnosing dyslexia can be difficult as individuals present inconsistent and contradictory profiles.

A child who appears bright and capable and displays many of these difficulties may be at risk for dyslexia. However, it is important to remember that the levels of development and speed of learning in early childhood differ significantly for each child. For this reason, psychologists tend to not formally diagnose dyslexia until a child is seven years of age or older.

Nevertheless, much can be done for children 7 years and under to prevent later difficulties. A good starting point is a comprehensive assessment by an educational psychologist who will identify cognitive strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations to help address identified difficulties. A psychologist will also suggest other specialists if appropriate (eg. speech pathologist, occupational therapist, tutor, etc.

The Apps Learning Centre (TALC) provides a Dyslexia Screener which provides an accurate indicator which can be a cost effective pre-cursor to major testing.


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ADHD is a Neurobiological condition associated with an imbalance of the brain's neurotransmitters (substances used to convey messaged between nerve cells) and differences in brain anatomy. There is a common perception that ADHD is a childhood condition. In reality, ADHD is a condition that affects all ages: children, adolescents and adults.

There are three types of behaviours:

  1. Inattention

  2. Hyperactivity

  3. Impulsivity

The Symptoms of ADHD

As listed in the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed (DSM-IV).

Signs of Inattention Can include:

Hyperactivity can involve:



  • Not paying close attention to details or making careless mistakes;
  • Not appearing to listen when spoken to directly;
  • Not following through on instructions;
  • Difficulty organising tasks;
  • Avoiding tasks that need sustained mental effort;
  • Being easily distracted; and
  • Being forgetful in daily activities.
  • Fidgeting with the hands or feet or squirming in a chair;
  • Moving about excessively when it is not appropriate;
  • Having difficulty playing quietly;
  • Being 'on the go' all the time; and
  • Talking excessively.
  • Impulsivity means appearing to act without thinking in advance, for example:
    • Blurting out answers before a question is completed;
    • Having trouble waiting for a turn; and
    • Butting into other people's conversations or games.

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Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects, among other things, the way an individual relates to his or her environment and their interaction with other people. The word 'spectrum' describes the range of difficulties that people with autism may experience and the degree to which they may be affected. Some people may be able to live relatively normal lives, while others may have an accompanying learning disability and require continued specialist support. The main areas of difficulty are in social communication, social interaction and restricted or repetitive behaviours and interests. People on the autism spectrum may also have:

  1. unusual sensory interests such as sniffing objects or staring intently at moving objects

  2. sensory sensitivities including avoiding everyday sounds and textures such as hair dryers, vacuum cleaners and sand

  3. intellectual impairment or learning difficulties

An estimated one in 100 people has autism; that's almost 230,000 Australians. Autism affects almost four times as many boys than girls.

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Stress, Trauma and Post-traumatic Stress Disorders in Children

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a clinical syndrome that may develop following extreme traumatic stress (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Version IV, American Psychiatric Association referred to as DSM IV).

Children with PTSD may present with a combination of problems. In fact, two children may both meet diagnostic criterion for PTSD but have a very different set of symptoms. This can be somewhat confusing to the non-clinical professionals trying to understand traumatized children. In addition, the signs and symptoms of PTSD can look very similar to other neuropsychiatric disorders in children, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and major depression.

Typical signs and symptoms of PTSD include impulsivity, distractibility and attention problems (due to hypervigilance), dysphoria, emotional numbing, social avoidance, dissociation, sleep problems, aggressive (often re-enactment) play, school failure and regressed or delayed development. In most studies examining the development of PTSD following a given traumatic experience, twice as many children suffer from significant post-traumatic signs or symptoms (PTSS) but lack all of the criteria necessary for the diagnosis of PTSD. In these cases, the clinician may identify trauma-related symptoms as being part of another neuropsychiatric syndrome (e.g., hypervigilance is often consider an attention problem and traumatized children will be diagnosed and treated as if they have ADHD).

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Developmental Delay

Developmental delay is the term used when a young child is slower to develop physical, emotional, social and communication skills than is expected in children of that age.

About developmental delay

Developmental delay can show up in the way a child moves, communicates, thinks and learns, or behaves with others. When more than one of these things is affected, the term 'global developmental delay' might be used. Developmental delay might happen just in the short term or it might be long term or permanent.

Causes of developmental delay

Lots of different things can cause children to develop more slowly than their peers.

Usually health professionals use the term 'developmental delay' only until they can work out what's causing the delay. If and when they find the cause, they'll use a name that better explains the child's condition.

Short-term developmental delays can happen in premature babies. Other causes for short-term delays are physical illness, prolonged hospitalisation, family stress or lack of opportunity to learn.

Permanent developmental delays are also called 'developmental disabilities'. These can be signs of other conditions. Examples include:

  1. cerebral palsy

  2. language delay

  3. hearing impairment

  4. intellectual disability

  5. autism spectrum disorder.

References & Links

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Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory processing (sometimes called "sensory integration" or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioural responses. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioural problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.

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Auditory Processing Disorder

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) describes the inability to process the meaning of sound. This condition is often present from early childhood, leading to a number of difficulties as the child becomes older and messages become complex and are given more quickly. APD is also known by the following names: central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), auditory perceptual processing dysfunction, auditory comprehension deficit, central deafness or word deafness. Many other conditions in children are made worse by an accompanying auditory processing disorder. Children who have autism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, language problems, aphasia or learning disabilities often have concurrent problems with auditory processing. Treatments designed to deal with APD have been shown to have positive implications for these children, supporting the idea that auditory processing is central to behaviour and learning. The indicators of Auditory Processing Disorder?Children with APD may display some or all of the following signs:

  1. Delayed language development

  2. Inability to listen effectively

  3. Trouble in sequencing the sounds of words

  4. Difficulty perceiving high frequency sounds: 't', 'f' 's', 'k', 'p', 'th', 'sh'

  5. Confusion when faced with similar sounds: eg. 'da' and 'ba'

  6. Poor comprehension in a noisy environment

  7. Easily distracted by irrelevant background sounds

  8. Poor speech comprehension, often asking 'What?'

  9. Misunderstanding and poor memory for oral messages

  10. Inconsistent responses to the same auditory stimuli

  11. Inability to follow directions

  12. Difficulty in expressing desires, often blaming the other person for not understanding

  13. Poor phonemic awareness contributing to poor reading, spelling or comprehension

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Working Memory Issues

What is working memory?

Working memory involves manipulating or thinking about the information held in short term memory. " Eg. Remembering a phone number is short term memory, taking that phone number and jputting the numbers in order from smallest to largest involves working memory". (Understanding Learning Difficulties DSF, 2012).

Generally children with working memory difficulties may find difficulty in mental arithmetic, sequencing or following up multi step instructions and many literacy based activities.

Common errors made by kids with working memory difficulties

  1. Incorrect recall of sentences or sequences or wrods

  2. Failing to follow instrutions

  3. Place keeping errors when reading - skipping words or repeating words

  4. Giving up easily on difficult tasks

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Dyscalculia is rarely identified early. Studies have been done to try to identify predictors of potential mathematical disability. The main predictors include:

  1. Not knowing which of two digits is larger, i.e. understanding the meaning of numbers

  2. Lacking effective counting strategies

  3. Poor fluency in identification of numbers

  4. Inability to add simple single-digit numbers mentally and

  5. Limitations in working memory capacity.

In School-age children:

  1. Poor mathematical concept development

  2. Lack of understanding of mathematical terms

  3. Confusion over printed symbols and signs

  4. Difficulty solving basic maths problems using addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

  5. Poor memory of number facts (i.e. times tables)

  6. Trouble in applying their knowledge and skills to solve maths problems.

  7. Weakness in visual-spatial skills, where a person may understand the required maths facts, but has difficulty putting them down on paper in an organized way.

  8. Frequent reversal of single figures and reversal of tens and units (e.g. 34 written as 43)

  9. Difficulty in reading text compound the student's problem in maths.

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Dysgraphia is a specific learning disability that affects written expression.

Dysgraphia can appear as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper. Dysgraphia can be a language based, and/or non-language based disorder.

Many people have poor handwriting, but dysgraphia is more serious. Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder that generally appears when children are first learning to write. Experts are not sure what causes it, but early treatment can help prevent or reduce problems.

Writing requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills. Not only does it require the ability to organize and express ideas in the mind. It also requires the ability to get the muscles in the hands and fingers to form those ideas, letter by letter, on paper.

Dysgraphia that is caused by a language disorder may be characterised by the person having difficulty converting the sounds of language into written form (phonemes into graphemes), or knowing which alternate spelling to use for each sound. A person with dysgraphia may write their letters in reverse, have trouble recalling how letters are formed, or when to use lower or upper case letters. A person with dysgraphia may struggle to form written sentences with correct grammar and punctuation, with common problems including ommitting words, words ordered incorrectly, incorrect verb and pronoun usage and word ending errors. People with dysgraphia may speak more easily and fluently than they write.

Non-language based dysgraphias are those caused by difficulties performing the controlled fine motor skills required to write. The generic term apraxia refers to a wide variety of motor skill deficits in which the voluntary execution of a skilled motor movement is impaired. Apraxia can involve a single controlled movement, or a sequence of movements, such as writing a single letter or entire words.

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