Carly Raby (Participation Manager) gives expert video advice on: What is a learning difficulty?; Will I stand out as needing special treatment?; Will having a learning disability affect my ability to make friends? and more...
What is a learning difficulty?
Learning difficulty is a very broad name because it covers lots of different difficulties that people have with learning. It can cover finding it difficult to read, finding it difficult to write; having difficulty with spellings, or in processing information when people are trying to teach you, and having difficulty understanding exactly what they're saying and applying it to what you're learning. So, learning difficulties really do cover a huge range of difficulties that children might have in their normal learning.
Will I stand out as needing special treatment?
I think the most important thing to think about if you do have learning difficulties is that everybody is different, really, every single person is different, and we all have difficulties with all sorts of things. There will be children or teenagers in your class that find it really difficult to make friends, who find it really difficult to be kind, who find it really difficult to learn, and who find it really difficult to dress in a stylish way. I'm sure that if you have got a learning difficulty, there are a million things you're brilliant at, but you might find it more difficult to learn and if you do need extra support in the classroom, then that's just help that you're getting to make sure that you're learning as much as you possibly can learn in a way that suits you. So, best thing to do is really to try to be quite open about it and not to feel uncomfortable about the fact that you have got a difficulty and other people know about it, because everybody's got difficulties in some areas of their life.
Will having a learning disability affect my ability to make friends?
Having a learning difficulty shouldn't affect your ability to make friends. There are lots of different difficulties that people have and some people have a very specific difficulty with making friends (in being kind, in knowing how people are feeling, etc). Having a learning difficulty doesn't mean that you will find it difficult to understand what people are feeling and thinking and how to be a good friend. Some learning difficulties might make it more difficult to understand what's going on or to really understand what games people are playing, the rules of the game and what they're doing. But there's no reason why you can't make friends, and I think once friends do know about some of the difficulties you've got, if they're true friends, they'll help to understand the things that you might not quite be getting. If they're good friends, then a learning difficulty shouldn't cause a problem.
Will I be teased if I have a learning difficulty?
You shouldn't be teased if you've got a learning difficulty. Some people aren't as kind as other people and some people will bully people for being different, but that's because they've got their own difficulty in being kind and being a good friend. If you've got a learning difficulty, it's important to remember everybody has got difficulty in some area of their life. Some people find it difficult to get ready at the right time and get to school on time. Some people find it difficult to know what clothes to wear, what to cook, or how to clean and you might find it more difficult to learn and in certain ways, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. The more open you are, the more people can help you to make it easier. Also, I think the more comfortable you are in yourself with the difficulties that you have got, the more comfortable other people will be around you in knowing the right way to help you or the right way to support you if you need it. If people are unkind then that's because they have got a difficulty in their social skills. You need to just bear in mind that's not your fault and that's something they need to work on themselves.
What is dyslexia?
Different people experience dyslexia in different ways, but dyslexia usually means that you find it difficult to read or write or you might find that you're reading and writing at different stages to your peers; that they're reading and writing a lot sooner or they're finding it easier. Some people find, with dyslexia, that they just find it quite difficult to process information; to take in what they're being told and to do the work that they're doing without some extra help in taking that information and helping to work out how to use it.
Who gets dyslexia?
Lots of young people have got dyslexia; I think the numbers are about one in ten. The most important thing with dyslexia is not to feel that it's only you who's struggling. There are lots of different organisations that you can contact to find out more about dyslexia and ways that you can be supported, along with helpful advice and tips for you and your family.
What are the symptoms of dyslexia?
Everybody is different, and just as we are all different, people with dyslexia find their symptoms are very different from each other. Some people will struggle with reading and writing, some people struggle a lot more than others with maths, and some will find it difficult to hear information that they're being told, and apply it. There are all different types of ways that people do struggle with dyslexia. And a lot of people find some very positive things about being dyslexic, or that they're very talented in other ways. The most important thing to remember is about one in ten young people do have dyslexia, so you're certainly not on your own. And there are lots of organizations that specialize in helping children and young people, with sort of top tips of things that help if you are dyslexic, with learning, and top tips for your family, and yourself, about all sorts of things in life.
I've just discovered I have dyslexia - how will this affect my schooling?
Some people who just discovered they are dyslexic are actually quite relieved because they've been struggling for a long time in certain areas, and aren't sure why. Quite a lot of dyslexic young people feel that they are really stupid or that they are not as clever their peers because they just aren't getting things. Sometimes having a diagnosis of dyslexia really helps to understand why you might have been struggling and to realize that you are not at all stupid, but that you've got a real difficulty in one area and that you might need more help with. The first thing to do is to find out all about dyslexia and what it means for you, because lots of different people will struggle in different ways because they're dyslexic. Find out from organizations that are designed to help children and people and their families with dyslexia, you can find out all sorts of tips that will be useful to you. The most important thing is to know that about 1 in 10 young people struggle with dyslexia and you're certainly not on your own. And to be as open as you can be about your dyslexia with your friends and at school so that you'll get as much help and support as you possibly can, so you can do as well as you can.
What help or support is there available to me if I have a learning difficulty?
There should be plenty of help and support available to you within your school if you do have a learning difficulty, and also hopefully your parents or whoever's looking after you should be supportive at home. The best thing to do is to encourage friends and family to find out as much as they can about the learning difficulty that you've got so they can help you in the best possible way. It might not be just that you struggle at school, but that you struggle with some areas of life, like planning things or your daily time table, organizing yourself; all of those kind of things. So as many people as can support you as possible, the better really. It's just very important to be open and honest with your teachers about what things you find difficult and what things you find helpful that they do, and the ways that really help you to learn and to do as well as you can.