Waterman Psychology Services aims to help children understand and overcome the challenges of behavioural and attention disorders, as well as learning disabilities. Our goal is to help them reach their full potential, through providing recommendations to improve their behaviour and wellbeing.


Specific learning disorders, such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia, can severely hinder learning and studying, enjoyment of work, and the educational experience. Waterman Psychology Services aim to improve this experience and guide you on the path to career and study success.


Every child learns differently, especially when they have a learning disorder such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia. Here at Waterman Psychology Services, we are committed to your child’s wellbeing and want to help you understand their needs, guide them on the path to educational success and unlock their potential

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Other Specific Learning Disorders and Common Intellectual Weaknesses

Dyscalculia (Maths Disorder)

A Specific Learning Disorder (with impairment in mathematics) is referred to as Dyscalculia.

A key component of the diagnosis is that the learning difficulties in mathematics are “unexpected” in that other areas of your child’s development appear within normal range.

Common traits of Dyscalculia include:

  • Difficulty understanding simple number facts or procedures.
  • Difficulty solving basic maths problems using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and/or division.
  • Not remembering the meaning of symbols or they cannot remember the steps involved in the maths equation and hence find difficulty in understanding how to solve the problem. For example, they may be provided with four exams’ scores of 70, 75, 80, and 65, however, they may be unable to determine the average test score.
  • Being able to complete a maths addition problem, but write the numbers in reverse (e.g., writing 61 instead of 16).
  • Poor memory of number facts such as automatically knowing that 7 times 7 equals 49.

There are several ways we can assist a child with a Specific Learning Disorder (with impairment in mathematics) depending on their age and maths ability. For instance, research has demonstrated that cooperative learning is an effective way to reduce processing difficulties that are associated with maths anxiety. Therefore, it can be beneficial that your child has a classmate who can demonstrate how to arrive at the worked-out answers so they can see the steps the friend goes through to succeed in solving the problem.

Additionally, if your child has some of these difficulties, an educational assessment completed in an educational psychology clinic can assist you in understanding your child’s learning needs, and providing recommendations and accommodations to assist them when learning in a more effective manner.

Dysgraphia (Written Expression Disorder)

A Specific Learning Disorder (with impairment in written expression) is referred to as dysgraphia.

Dysgraphia can often either be motor-based (difficulties with fine motor skills which is treated by occupational therapists) or language-based.

For a diagnosis of the disorder, a child’s written expression and/or spelling accuracy must be substantially lower than their same-age peers. Furthermore, this must be specific and is not the consequence of an intellectual disability, hearing or visual impairment, or other neurological or motor disorders.

Other common traits of Dysgraphia include:

  • Having significant difficulty with the process of writing and often finds it effortful and tiring.
  • They may demonstrate poor sentence and paragraph structure. Moreover, they may have difficulty choosing the correct spelling alternatives or demonstrate difficulties spelling in context.
  • They will demonstrate a significantly better verbal ability than written ability.
  • Difficulties become more apparent as the demands on writing ability increase through middle and upper primary school.

There are several ways we can assist a child with a Specific Learning Disorder (with impairment in written expression) depending on their age and writing ability. Some examples include:

  • Providing extra writing time and allowing rests when extended writing is required.
  • Allow work to be produced on a word processor, with spell-check and grammar check available.
  • As your child becomes older using a suitable software program to organise ideas for written work can be beneficial.
  • Your child may also be assisted by providing writing guidelines and paragraph headings to support extended structured writing. Proving a template of an assignment can assist your child to become familiar with the assignment’s construction.

Lastly, if you believe that your child has significant difficulties with their written expression, an educational assessment can assist you in understanding your child’s ability. A psychologist can also provide recommendations to assist your child in fulfilling their written expression potential.

Language Disorder

A Language Disorder often affects a child’s ability to use words to convey what they want to say. In other words, your child may have trouble processing and understanding the meaning of what other people say.

Some common traits of a Language Disorder include:

  • Having difficulty following instructions or have short-term (auditory) memory problems and/or have a reluctance to ask questions.
  • They may be reluctant to contribute to classroom discussions.
  • In the classroom, academically, your child may struggle with reading rate or have difficulty understanding what is meant in the paragraph they just read.
  • Children with a Language Disorder often have a reduced word knowledge and understanding of how the words are used. Hence, it makes sense that if there are some words within a sentence that your child does not understand, it will be difficult for them to fully appreciate the underlying message within the text.

Often a Language Disorder can be relative to ADHD symptoms due to parents/teachers concerns with behaviour. More specifically, the child may appear to have poor organisational skills and poor concentration or attention span, though the child might just have difficulty following verbal instructions and appears to fail to listen when spoken to.

Therefore, if you believe that your child may be experiencing any of the symptoms described, it is recommended that a multi-disciplinary approach be taken. A Language Disorder is normally diagnosed by a Speech Pathologist in combination with a psychoeducational assessment completed by a psychologist.

A psychoeducational assessment by a psychologist can assist in eliminating other causes for your child’s academic difficulties such as dyslexia, intellectual disability, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Low Processing Speed

Processing speed relates to your child’s ability to perform simple and repetitive mental tasks quickly and automatically. Processing speed can be measured using a standardised intelligence test such as the Wechsler Intelligence Test for Children (WISC-V). Common traits of low processing speed include:
  • In the school setting, they take much longer than their peers to complete their work.
  • They may have trouble copying from the board.
  • You may notice that your child struggles to complete their homework in a timely manner.
  • They are likely to have difficulty learning routines and completing tests or assignments in the required time.
  • Medical or social/environmental factors are negatively affecting their ability to engage in a mental fluent rapid manner.
  • It is important to recognise though that your child’s poor processing speed is related to impaired speed and fluency of processing information rather than a lack of knowledge or understanding of material.
There are many reasons why your child may experience these difficulties, for example, vision impairment, poor sleep/nutrition, fine motor skill difficulties that affect handwriting, and emotional state can all affect the speed and fluency of processing information. Further, if your child is highly anxious/a perfectionist, lacks motivation, gets easily distracted, or demonstrates inattentive behaviour, their ability to complete tasks quickly may be affected. A child’s poor processing speed may also relate to a diagnosed medical condition or a neurodevelopmental disorder such as a Specific Learning Disorder, ADHD, autism or an underlying physical condition. In the event that your child’s poor processing speed is relative to another disorder, a referral to the appropriate medical professional will be provided in the comprehensive written report. Other ways in which you can assist a child with poor processing speed include:
  • Providing more time to complete assignments and developing an individualised learning plan so that they can work at their own pace.
  • Reduce the volume of work, for instance, setting fewer maths problems or note-taking expectations should be reduced which can be achieved by taking a photo with an iPad of the work for the child.
  • Your child is also likely to benefit from a teacher who avoids providing long multi-step instructions.
Through an educational assessment, we are able to assist in determining the strengths and weaknesses of your child including their ability to work fluently and quickly.

Working Memory Difficulties

Working memory difficulties refer to the capacity a person has to hold and manipulate information in the mind over short periods of time.

An example of using working memory would be when attempting to multiply together 34 and 45 in a situation where you do not have a calculator or pen or paper, only your mind.

There is a limit to what can be held in the working memory. For example, for the majority, it would be impossible to multiply larger numbers such as 754 and 831 in our heads as this would require a larger storage space. For the average person, the working memory can store up to 7 +/-2 units of information.

There are several factors that can affect working memory ability, including distraction. When you are attempting to do two things at the same time, for example when doing something else at the same time as learning, this can have an effect on working memory ability by limiting the amount of information that can be held in the working memory space.

There are many ways we can assist working memory difficulties, depending on specific learning or emotional difficulties. For example:

  • Anxiety Disorder – reducing distractions around them such as removing posters in the classroom, which can assist working memory by not being overwhelmed with irrelevant information.
  • ADHD – shortening instructions to reduce the amount of information expected to be held and having timed bursts of academic effort of 5-10 minutes rather than a prolonged lesson.
  • Dyslexia – speaking slowly allowing the person to take information in their working memory more effectively and shortening activities to reduce the impact on working memory.

In summary, there are many ways in which we can assist children with working memory difficulties to become more effective learners within the classroom and home environment. In exploring these options children with learning difficulties as a consequence of poor working memory will be rewarded with higher academic achievement and improved mental health and wellbeing.