Co-occurring difficulties (or differences)

Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty, or difference (SpLD), which means it affects the way information is learned and processed. It is neurological (rather than psychological), it's usually hereditary and it has nothing to do with intelligence.

It is quite common for people to have dyslexia alongside other SpLD. These are called co-occurring difficulties (or differences) and include dyscalculia and dyspraxia. Just like dyslexia these can vary in severity and every person's experience will be individual to them.

All SpLD are encompassed in the term 'neurodiversity'. This is a relatively new term which is used to promote the view that all neurological differences are to be recognised and respected as any other human variation.

Find out more about SpLD that can co-occur with dyslexia:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

    Symptoms of ADHD tend to be noticed at an early age and may become more noticeable when a child's circumstances change, such as when they start school. Most cases are diagnosed when children are 6 to 12 years old.

    The symptoms of ADHD usually improve with age, but many adults who are diagnosed with the condition at a young age continue to experience problems.

    People with ADHD may also have additional problems, such as sleep and anxiety disorders. (NHS)

    Previously the inattentive form of ADHD which doesn't involve hyperactivity and impulsivity was labelled ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. Recently though the language has changed and children with those symptoms have been included under the ADHD umbrella. (

    More information:
    ADDISS: The National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support ServiceADDISS provide people-friendly information and resources about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to anyone who needs assistance - parents, sufferers, teachers or health professionals.

    The ADHD FoundationThis dynamic organisation provides a number of services in the field of ADHD including training and consultancy for both education and employment, and also for parents. 

    The UK ADHD Partnership: UKAPThis partnership was established by mental health and allied professionals who share an interest in improving outcomes and securing better futures for children and young people affected by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), together with their carers and families. The Partnership brings together practitioners with a wealth of experience from a range of services who are committed to raising awareness and understanding about ADHD and fostering positive outcomes.

    UKAAN: UK Adult ADHD NetworkUKANN is the first established organisation for ADHD in Adults in the UK. It offers a range of services and information on ADHD in adults, including diagnosis and treatment options.

    CHAD: Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity DisorderThis is an American site and a charitable trust offering a range of information and advice to parents, teachers and employers with regards to ADHD. Certain policies and procedures may be specific to the USA but there are a number of useful tips for all interested in the field.

  • Autism (ASD)

    Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them. (National Autistic Society)

    The Guardian: Breaking down the barriers to employment for autistic peopleInteresting article on how awareness and understanding can help to get the best from your autistic employee.

    Could you stand the rejection? A short film from the National Autistic Society about the challenges of the interview process for a person with autism.

    More information:
    National Autistic Society (NAS)The leading UK charity for autistic people (including those with Asperger syndrome) and their families. They provide information, support and pioneering services, and campaign for a better world for autistic people.

    Services directory The site includes a national services directory

    Ambitious about AutismAmbitious about Autism is the national charity for children and young people with autism. They provide services, raise awareness and understanding, and campaign for change. They also offer specialist education and support. Their ambition is to make the ordinary possible for more children and young people with autism.

  • Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

    Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) was previously known as Specific Language Impairment (SLI). It is a type of speech, language and communication need (SLCN).

    People with DLD are usually as able and healthy as other people in all ways, with one exception; they have enormous difficulty talking and understanding language. This is their main area of difficulty.

    DLD is a very broad category, with some children having mild problems that are short-lived.  Others have severe and persistent difficulties with both understanding and talking. These difficulties are not associated with other conditions, such as cerebral palsy, hearing impairment or autistic spectrum disorders. Children with DLD are often as clever as any other child of their age but they still have difficulties with speech and language.

    A full definition can be found on the I CAN website.

    More information: 
    I CANThe children's communication charity. Experts in helping children develop the speech, language and communication skills they need to thrive in the 21st century world.

    I CAN - PractitionersInformation specifically for Practitioners working with children in Early, Primary and Secondary Years

    The RALLI channel on YoutubeThis has lots of really useful videos, including some of children and young people talking about their difficulties, and what helps them.

    The Communication TrustThe Communication Trust is a coalition of over 50 organisations. Working together they support everyone who works with children and young people in England to support their speech, language and communication. There are lots of free resources for parents and practitioners.

    Talking PointThe first stop for information on children's communication. It's for parents, teachers and practitioners.

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  • Dyscalculia

    Dyscalculia is usually perceived of as a specific learning difficulty for mathematics, or, more appropriately, arithmetic. Developmental Dyscalculia (DD) is a specific learning disorder that is characterised by impairments in learning basic arithmetic facts, processing numerical magnitude and performing accurate and fluent calculations.

    These difficulties must be quantifiably below what is expected for an individual’s chronological age, and must not be caused by poor educational or daily activities, or by intellectual impairments. (British Dyslexia Association)

    More information:

    The British Dyslexia Association: Dyscalculia

    Daniel Ansari on What is Dyscalculia? Dr Ansari is one of the top researchers in the world in Education Neuroscience. He works on how people learn, focusing on the brain.

    Dr Anna Wilson (NZ)  Dr Wilson is a keen advocate for those with dyscalculia. Her website contains a wide range of information from research to resources. She is New Zealand’s top expert in dyscalculia and maths learning difficulties.

    Brian ButterworthProf Butterworth is the UK’s top expert on dyscalculia. His website contains information on the research that is helping us understand dyscalculia, video clips of people talking about their personal perceptions of dyscalculia and lots of links.

    Dyslexic Advantage Drs Brock and Fernette Eide were the founders of this site. This is a US site with lots of videos about dyslexia and dyscalculia.

    Steve Chinn This site includes a (free) maths anxiety test for adults and a selection of articles on dyscalculia and maths learning difficulties,

    Steve Chinn - Maths explainedThere is more information on Chinn’s other website, which might be helpful for Learning Assistants.

  • Dyspraxia/DCD

    Dyspraxia, also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), is a common disorder affecting fine and/or gross motor coordination in children and adults. Dyspraxia/DCD is formally recognised by international organisations including the World Health Organisation.

    Dyspraxia is distinct from other motor disorders such as cerebral palsy and stroke, and occurs across the range of intellectual abilities. Individuals may vary in how their difficulties present: these may change over time depending on environmental demands and life experiences, and will persist into adulthood.

    A full definition can be found here on the Dyspraxia Foundation website

    More information:
    Dyspraxia FoundationIncludes information on ‘How would I recognise a child with dyspraxia?’ and primary and secondary classroom guidelines. The Foundation supports parents, individuals and professionals either living with, or supporting those with dyspraxia

    Dyspraxia Foundation Youth

    Tips in supporting people with dyspraxia/DCD in employment

    Movement MattersMovement Matters is the UK umbrella organisation representing the major national groups concerned with children and adults with dyspraxia. The website holds documents and videos aimed at parents, teachers and employers of people with dyspraxia.

    3 tips for Dyspraxia (Youtube 1:37m)

    Dyspraxia Universe (Youtube 4:58m)

  • Visual Stress

    Visual stress is believed to affect 35-40 per cent of people with dyslexia. It is known by a few other names such as, Meares-Irlen, Irlen Syndrome or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome.

    Visual stress affects the way that words look on the page. Instead of appearing in straight lines words can appear to be moving or blurred. Stark contrast between black text and a white background can result in a glare from the page which makes it even harder to read.

    Many dyslexic people are also sensitive to the glare of white backgrounds on a page, white board or computer screen. 

    Visual stress can significantly affect reading ability and also result in headaches, eye strain, poor concentration and tiredness.

    There are a few simple interventions that can help to lessen the impact of visual stress such as printing hard copy materials on non-white paper and the use of coloured overlays.

    Dyslexia Friendly Style Guide The British Dyslexia Association have produced a style guide which offers advice for producing dyslexia friendly printed and web materials.
    British Dyslexia AssociationHelpful information on Eyes and Dyslexia. This also includes helpful links and resources.