Specific Literacy Difficulties


Dyslexia is a term used to describe difficulties with word reading and/or spelling which are significant and persistent in nature despite differentiated and personalised learning opportunities and evidenced-based intervention.


Dyslexia is underpinned by difficulties in some or all of the following:

  • Phonological awareness: the ability to identify, perceive and manipulate sounds in words
  • Verbal memory: the ability to store, process and manipulate verbal information
  • Verbal processing speed: the ability to retrieve familiar words quickly and accurately
  • Visual processing speed: the ability to visually recognise familiar words/symbols/patterns quickly and accurately


Phonological awareness is an awareness of the sound structure of language.

  • Can you hear the difference between birdsong and a dog barking?
  • Can you hear that a spoken sentence is made up of a series of individual words?
  • Can you hear that a spoken word is made from a sequence of individual sounds?


It is the awareness of the units of sounds – which may be words, syllable, rhyme, phonemes

  • Can you hear syllables, e.g. el/e/phant, ap/ple, trai/ner?
  • Can you hear rhyme, e.g. snow and toe?
  • Can you hear phonemes, e.g. /ch/ur/ch/, /s/w/i/m/?


Why might children experience difficulties with developing phonological awareness?

  • Some children, do not start school with the phonological awareness skills needed to develop their literacy. These reasons include hearing difficulties, speech and language issues, learning disabilities, poor exposure to spoken language structure and language delay.
  • These children may be able to learn that an individual letter makes a particular sound, but if they are unable to identify the individual sounds within a word, they will not be able to blend and segment when reading and spelling.

Resources to support at home

Specific Learning Difficulties | DSPL (Area) 5 (dspl5.co.uk)

British Dyslexia Association (bdadyslexia.org.uk)

Dyslexia Action | Training and Professional Development